Easter 2020 arrives in a season of sickness, fear, loneliness and uncertainty about the future. Perhaps we have never needed the Easter message of Resurrection and Hope as much as today! Throughout our global village, the citizens of planet Earth are experiencing the consequences of the Coronavirus Pandemic with many experiencing illness, many dead, many grieving and still millions more staying at home, separated from the familiar places of work and school and recreation that fill our “normal” days. Will we ever return to “normal” and what will that feel like? Easter Sunday is a time to contemplate a vision of the future as filled with hope and opportunity for renewal after this time of sorrow.
Pope Francis has given several important homilies in the last few weeks; his is a prophetic voice calling the global community to experience and express solidarity, to rise above fear, to care for those who are afflicted, to support those who care for others in this time of great need, to work for peace. His Urbi et Orbi address today, Easter Sunday, is an excellent text for meditation in the week ahead.
He also gave a moving homily last night, Holy Saturday, at the Easter Vigil liturgy at the Vatican, and I found these opening paragraphs to be especially important for reflection:
” “After the Sabbath” (Mt 28:1), the women went to the tomb. This is how the Gospel of this holy Vigil began: with the Sabbath. It is the day of the Easter Triduum that we tend to neglect as we eagerly await the passage from Friday’s cross to Easter Sunday’s Alleluia. This year however, we are experiencing, more than ever, the great silence of Holy Saturday. We can imagine ourselves in the position of the women on that day. They, like us, had before their eyes the drama of suffering, of an unexpected tragedy that happened all too suddenly. They had seen death and it weighed on their hearts. Pain was mixed with fear: would they suffer the same fate as the Master? Then too there was fear about the future and all that would need to be rebuilt. A painful memory, a hope cut short. For them, as for us, it was the darkest hour.”
“Yet in this situation the women did not allow themselves to be paralyzed. They did not give in to the gloom of sorrow and regret, they did not morosely close in on themselves, or flee from reality. They were doing something simple yet extraordinary: preparing at home the spices to anoint the body of Jesus. They did not stop loving; in the darkness of their hearts, they lit a flame of mercy. Our Lady spent that Saturday, the day that would be dedicated to her, in prayer and hope. She responded to sorrow with trust in the Lord. Unbeknownst to these women, they were making preparations, in the darkness of that Sabbath, for “the dawn of the first day of the week”, the day that would change history. Jesus, like a seed buried in the ground, was about to make new life blossom in the world; and these women, by prayer and love, were helping to make that hope flower. How many people, in these sad days, have done and are still doing what those women did, sowing seeds of hope! With small gestures of care, affection and prayer.”
“At dawn the women went to the tomb. There the angel says to them: “Do not be afraid. He is not here; for he has risen” (vv. 5-6). They hear the words of life even as they stand before a tomb… And then they meet Jesus, the giver of all hope, who confirms the message and says: “Do not be afraid” (v. 10). Do not be afraid, do not yield to fear: This is the message of hope. It is addressed to us, today. These are the words that God repeats to us this very night.”
“Tonight we acquire a fundamental right that can never be taken away from us: the right to hope. It is a new and living hope that comes from God. It is not mere optimism; it is not a pat on the back or an empty word of encouragement. It is a gift from heaven, which we could not have earned on our own. Over these weeks, we have kept repeating, “All will be well”, clinging to the beauty of our humanity and allowing words of encouragement to rise up from our hearts. But as the days go by and fears grow, even the boldest hope can dissipate. Jesus’ hope is different. He plants in our hearts the conviction that God is able to make everything work unto good, because even from the grave he brings life.”
The Pope’s message is one of hope, of resilience, of faith that will sustain us through this dark time in human history to reach the new days ahead. We prepare even now for the end of this crisis even though we have no clear understanding of when that might come. We cannot be consumed with our own worries and fears, we must be like the women who went to the tomb, not being paralyzed by despair but rising to our responsibilities in this and every moment, preparing for a future in which we will thrive even more because we have kept hope alive through this difficult time.
My most fervent hope for all in the Trinity community for your health and safety, and that we may come together soon again to celebrate and enjoy our lives together in teaching and learning.