“Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger.”
These words from the poem ‘Lost’ by David Wagoner describes where the world is and where we are as a nation and Church.
The “trees and bushes,” where we are, make us feel “lost”—unable to attend Mass, to hug or kiss, to commute and work, to recreate and lime, to be at the deathbed of a family member or attend his or her funeral. It is so cold and uninviting—the very opposite of the table fellowship of Jesus.
But if we let this Sunday’s gospel guide us, we slowly find a way out – “It was … still dark when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb.” We are in the dark right now, in this place called “Here”, in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic that intrudes on us like a “powerful stranger”—sending millions out of work, collapsing economies and forcing us all to stay at home.
Through it we discover the Easter mystery is not about life after death; it is about life through the experience of death, through the “Here” in which we find ourselves.
Not only in Europe and North America, but right here, people are finding resurrection and new life—a growing sense that social distancing is necessary for the common good; all and sundry using social media to bring hope, share prayers and the sacred liturgy; and make us laugh for mental health is crucial at this time. Environmental watchdogs have noticed that nature too has begun to heal.
Through this process of dying both literally and figuratively in this pandemic, we are remembering the things that are truly important—life itself and our health, our friends and neighbours we have lost touch with, family members we have allowed to drift from us, and life eternal we have spent too little time reflecting on.
To inherit that life eternal to which Easter Sunday points means we must live as Jesus lived, giving hope to people not only metaphysically but concretely.
This is particularly important when it comes to food and water, two of our most basic needs. The widespread loss of jobs and the closure of all food outlets spell trouble for thousands of households. People are already hungry and short on money or without it.
This is where wise political and economic governance is paramount. The goods of the nation must be distributed in such a way that the poor do not bear the weight of a cross that is far heavier than it should be.
We appeal to the Church’s social teaching on the limits of private property: those with more in these suffering times are obligated to help those who have much less. This is one concrete way of creating hope and being truly Christian. Jesus spent much of His time on earth eating and drinking with the outcasts and one of the most alluring images of Heaven is a banquet table.
Let us celebrate Christ who is risen by attending to social bonds and human needs in the “Here” that confronts us today.