Where is Jesus when you need him?

This is a question many have asked as they suffer through the loss of a home or livelihood in a wildfire, a debilitating illness in oneself or a loved one, or serious conflicts among family members or nations. Sometimes we have the notion that Jesus is basking in the glory of heaven while we suffer here below. Yet the reason we celebrate Easter so joyfully is because we know that the risen Jesus is always with us, caring for us and loving us.

His risen presence can be elusive, because his glorified Body seems to appear then disappear. But Jesus was present in Lahaina when young adults from EPIC Ministry, the Knights of Columbus and so many others reached out to those who still suffer so much from the devastating wildfires of last summer. Jesus is present when Catholic Charities Hawaii or HOPE Services reaches out to find housing, offers counseling and brings hope into the lives of anyone in the community in need of their services. Jesus is present when priests, deacons and many others visit the sick, pray for them and assist them with food or chores, and offer encouragement in their sufferings. Jesus is present when our Catholic school teachers, catechists and youth ministers proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God to others.

In these circumstances and many others, we may not immediately recognize the presence of the risen Jesus. After all, one of his closest friends, Mary Magdalene, did not immediately recognize him when he stood before her outside his tomb (John 20:11-18). And two of his disciples walked seven miles in broad daylight with the risen Jesus, conversing with him, but did not recognize him until he sat down at table and broke bread with them (Luke 24:13-35).

That is the key! It is in this “Breaking of the Bread,” the Eucharist, that we encounter the risen Jesus as the living Bread come down from heaven (John 6:58). This living Bread is the Real Presence of the risen Jesus, who then makes himself present to many others through those who eat his flesh and drink his blood. As he once multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed thousands, he multiplies his own presence by making us members of his own Body, so that the risen Jesus can be wherever we are as members of his Body.

Jesus healed, taught, cast out demons, encouraged and challenged in the past, but he continues to do so today in those who are in intimate and holy communion with him and with each other in the Eucharist. The more we realize the power of this great sacrament, and the more we invite others into the mission that flows from it, the more we will experience the living presence of the risen Jesus among us.

May you, as members of the Body of Christ, rejoice in our Easter celebration and realize how close the risen Jesus is to all of us today!