This homily is based on John 20:1-9.

Two great mysteries bookend our Lord’s lives–and they feel so different from each other. At the beginning, of course, is the birth of our Lord, which we celebrate at Christmas, and in the end, we have his resurrection, which we commemorate today as Easter.

The Christmas narrative seems to happen in slow motion, as if unfolding to a peaceful Christmas carol. All the Easter stories, on the other hand, seem to be always on fast forward. There’s a lot of confusion and a lot of frantic running around.




After the women discovered the empty tomb, they fled. Some versions mention an angel telling them, “Go quickly!” Others have them running into the Risen Lord, who said the same: “Go to the disciples!” In today’s reading, after hearing Mary Magdalene’s report, Peter and John virtually raced each other towards the tomb and indeed found it as the women had reported.

All this running should remind us of our often fast-paced lives and invite us to question our own running. Do we spend enough energy running towards the Lord–or do we really just end up running around like headless chickens? It’s a great reminder for us to wonder if we should do more discernment to monitor the direction of our energies.

What are you running for anyway?

Going back to the disciples of Easter, it’s almost strange that they were running towards an empty tomb. Come to think of it, Easter confronts us with our horror vacui. That’s a Latin phrase I learned decades ago in a college freshman class with the late great Dr. Doreen Fernandez, from whom I learned how to write. Discussing the “Filipino taste,” she said, “We Filipinos seem to have horror vacui–which is the fear of empty spaces.”

While Christmas offers us a child in a manger, Easter furnishes us with an empty tomb. It invites us to face the empty spaces of our lives–and our fear of them. Is that what we spend all our days running away from? The problem is, as we have learned this Holy Week, the fullness of life is found in these very empty spaces. Unless we are able to face–and accept–the emptiness inside us, we will not find the Risen Lord because it is there that he resides. He knows that only when we get in touch with our existential emptiness will we ever begin any search for Him.

So how do you feel about all that emptiness in your life? Have you been filling  it up with all sorts of stuff–or are have you been fleeing it?

So here are two Easter questions for you to think about: “What–and who–are you doing all that running for?”

And: “How would you feel about inhabiting the empty spaces of your life?”

The painting of Peter and John running to Jesus’ tomb has quite a significant personal meaning for me. I picked it almost two decades ago to be printed on the prayer card I gave out to family and friends when I was ordained a priest. On Tuesday, the 18th of April, I remember my ordination to the priesthood exactly 19 years ago.




This Easter morning I bless the Lord for giving me the opportunity to run this race for me, and I give Him thanks for all the many people I’ve run into, as well as all those who’ve joined me and consistently supported me in this race– including all the times I may have unwittingly run off the tracks. Thanks, guys!

Please pray for me and my companions that the Lord may always give us a second wind.


Painting by Eugene Burnand

27 replies on “HORROR VACUI”

Praying for you Fr. J

Thankfull for allowimg me to experience a yearly retreat. I did not realize that I had beendoing this also for 10 years.

Happy Anniversary … For your ordination.

Thank you Fr J for making us part of your ministry. My daughter attended your retreat and she told me
she didn’t want it to end. Your messages must have resonated deeply. She is now a regular follower of Pins of Light.

A blessed 19th anniversary to the priesthood.


Fr. J, your retreat is always a godsend. As is your gift of loving service as a priest. Congratulations on your ordination anniversary. I put your name on a prayer card at the Oratory of St. Joseph in Montreal. According to the card, you will be remembered in perpetuity. Sending much love, gratitude and prayers!

Happy Easter, Fr. Johnny. My prayer for you and your comrades is for you to always remain faithful to your vows. Jesus loves those who serve Him through His flock. God bless!

Alleluia! Bless the Lord! Thank you, Fr.J , for giving of yourself to the flock of Christ. I thought you were a priest for at least three decades. You have shown others the light , and I pray that God will always keep you close to his heart. We urge you on to your next two decades and more. AMDG!

Happy Eadter, Fr. Johnny ! Yes, I will pray for you and your companions. After reading, I became more conscious of my empty spaces. Thanks for the thoughts.

Hi, Fr. Johnny!

A happy & blessed Easter to you!

I will pray for you that you get the second wind when you are tired or bewildered by the enormous tasks that need to be done. God bless you, Father!

Lito’s stroke, 3 years ago, taught us the importance of facing our fears and moving forward. We carry our crosses because Easter is promised.
We are humbled by the countless blessings we have been given along the way, the most valuable being, friends like you.
Your intentions are ours, and we will keep you in our prayers, as you have kept us in yours.

Thanks for the reminder. At this moment in my life, though I have learned to entrust everything to the Lord, I need to face the empty spaces in my life & discern more so as not to fill it up with useless stuff that will hinder me from doing God’s will for me.
Happy Easter, Fr. J and Happy 19th anniversary on your priesthood. May God bless you always and keep you in His care.

Happy Easter, Father J. You must have done quite a lot of running yourself given your 20 years of priesthood. The English “run + preposition”. Is an exciting phrase. Run around, run to and fro, run along, run across, run out, run into. You may have at some point in your life used any of these to declare your experience. But I should say you never would have used ” run away/from” because you are still here. Most likely, you keep running forward. Thank you, Father J for tirelessly running forward to reach out to us every Sunday, every Holy Week. God bless you.

Christ has risen! What more can I ask for??? A blessed Easter, Fr. Johnny…as you invite me to stay the course, i pray for courage to quietly, gently look at my space…..thank you….

Praying thanks to God for you today too, Fr J! Thank you for choosing to run for Christ and deciding to run to Christ. Thank you for running along side us on the way.

One of my favourite sentences that I feel aptly describes my walk in faith is from M Scott Peck: “Stumblingly, I was led.” Grateful today for His stubborn, relentless love that leads us.

God bless you extravagantly and profusely, Father. Happy running and stumbling!

Happy Easter Fr. Johnny! And best wishes on the 19th Anniversary of your ordination! Aida & I will keep you in our prayers. We pray that you continue to inspire us, as well as others, in our discernment of God’s will.

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful reflection! It helped me widen my perspective and deepen my faith. God bless us always.

Happy 19th anniversary Fr J, and may the Lord continue to use u mightily and bless u abundantly.

Happy Easter

Thank you so much, Fr. J for Pins of light! It gives me so much clearer perspective in my spiritual journey. Keeping you all in my prayers. Looking forward now to Sunday’s gospel reflection. Again than you so much.

Thank you for always finding time to pray, reflect, and share your thoughts on the Gospel readings. They’re inspiring me to know and grow in relationship with myself, others, and God better. Thank you for being a priest of Jesus Christ, for your generous yes to his calling. Your sacrifice nurtures souls.

Praying for you always. Happy Easter!

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