By Kaelanne Jordan
The whole Church is no longer “living” in the desert for 40 days, but has now moved to a new location—the Upper Room, the place where Christ’s Resurrection was slowly unveiled in the minds and hearts of the apostles.
What the disciples experienced in the Upper Room between Good Friday and Easter Saturday, “is what you and I have been experiencing for the last 40 days when this COVID-19 virus took a whole of Trinidad and Tobago,” Archbishop Jason Gordon said in his homily for the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday (April 11) at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The livestreamed 6 p.m. Mass, aired on Trinity TV and catholictt.org saw priests of the Archdiocese participating virtually from their respective chapels.
As the apostles, the early Church, and Jesus were “stripped”, so too faithful can only understand the Resurrection of Christ, if they are prepared to be stripped, and let go of all they think to be important in their lives.
“…and that’s what COVID-19 has given to us, a gift. It has stripped us of our rat race; it has stripped us of our importance; it has stripped us of our grandiose self and our egotism. It has stripped us of believing that we are so important and we have no need for God; it has stripped us of our illusion that God has no part in a modern world. It has stripped us of the belief that Science will solve all of our problems; it has stripped us of our faith in Science as if Science can be more important to us than God,” the Archbishop said.
The disciples in the Upper Room, the Archbishop said, were filled with fear of being killed, guilt, hopelessness, and sin because they had betrayed their Master by “running away” at “the most crucial moment”.
These four “powers” the devil uses to rob persons of joy ,snatch them from Christ and undermine them. In the Resurrection night, these four powers give way to the light that is Jesus Christ.
“The first thing the two women heard in the garden as they go is ‘Do not be afraid’. As I talk to people in this pandemic, fear is the most consistent response that people are having,” he said.
The Archbishop then asked faithful to think of the kind of fear they have been living in past weeks which has “totally consumed you”.
“And I want you to hear from Jesus Christ Himself tonight ‘Do not be afraid’. Do not be afraid because you have gone down into the waters of baptism with Jesus Christ and you have died with Christ and because you have died with Christ… we will rise with Christ in glory.”
The stripping that faithful has experienced is one part of the mystery of the renewal of the Church in Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and the world. The other part of the mystery, the Archbishop said is the light of the Resurrection.
As in the gospel reading (Matt 28:1-10), which was proclaimed by Fr Godfrey Stoute, the Archbishop assured faithful that God too, will remove the stone present in hearts and allow the Resurrection light to fill every area of life.
“But you must hear the words of the angel to the women: ‘Do not be afraid’,” he said.
Archbishop Gordon emphasised that though the COVID-19 virus may kill bodies, it cannot kill souls. It may wreak havoc on the world economy but it cannot kill faith in Jesus Christ.
“Do not be afraid of that which can kill the body. Fear Him rather who can take our souls to Heaven with Him in glory,” he said.
The Archbishop asserted where there is fear Jesus gives love; where there is sin, He gives forgiveness. He invited faithful to go before Jesus with their sin, asking mercy from that “sin sickness” that they have lived with for so long, “And allow the Resurrection light to light up your life”.
Of the four powers, despair and hopelessness are the most potent.
“Think of the hopelessness you have experienced because of COVID-19. Think about it. Think of that hopelessness that the disciples experienced in the Upper Room after Jesus had been put to death. Think of the despair and the ways in which their hopes had been dashed….”
As Archbishop, he urged faithful not to despair, but instead place hope in Christ because He has conquered death and only He brings life where there is death, and hope where there is despair.
The Easter Vigil Mass took place in complete darkness until the Gloria was sung. The liturgy consisted of the lighting of the Pascal candle— a symbol of Christ the light who defeated the darkness of death—the liturgy of the word, renewal of baptismal promises and liturgy of the Eucharist.