In this unusual time of the coronavirus pandemic, Linda Jones from our Theology team reflects on the signs of hope that can be found this Holy Week and Easter.
As Easter draws near, we may be finding things difficult. Perhaps the season of Lent this year has seemed more appropriate than ever – with its thoughtful, rather introspective feel. We may have been ill or seen people we love suffer. Perhaps we have struggled to find the food we need, or we may have felt isolated and alone.
And yet, like snowdrops in January, or daffodils in spring, we will have seen and experienced signs of hope. When I’ve been out for a short walk near home, I’ve been lucky enough to see the new-born lambs skipping about. In the village where I live, neighbours have been ringing each other before they go out shopping, offering to help with supplies. Others have been collecting prescriptions, volunteering locally, and phoning older relatives more often, just to say hello.
People I haven’t seen for ages have been messaging me, checking that I’m ok. A friend from Liberia has been in touch most days on Facebook, reminding me to stay safe and stay home. He has recent experience of the impact of the Ebola virus on his local community and was able to send tips on how to cope.
Learning a new way to be
I have found so many things to be grateful for, and I’ve been noticing many little acts of kindness that give me heart. But I’ve also noticed how anxious I can feel, and how fearful and worried I can be. I’m worrying about my elderly parents, those of my family who work in hospitals and care homes, and I am worrying more often than usual about my own health. I’m afraid for all the communities where CAFOD works around the world, where healthcare is limited and poverty forces people to go out to work and find food.
Normally, at times of crisis we would be able to go to Mass and pray alongside others. But now it is weeks since we have been able to go to church with our family, community and friends. I always like to go into church and light a candle for everyone I love, but now I have to do that at home. These simple routines that I have taken for granted have now changed. I must learn a new way to be with others and to pray with others.
God is not limited
What I’m finding useful is to remember that God is not limited to the boundaries of his house. And, essentially, neither are we! Physically we are not allowed to leave home, apart from very specific and necessary purposes. But spiritually we can wander free and be prepared to meet God wherever we may be.
As Cardinal Vincent Nichols said, “God is not limited by his sacraments.” Yes, the physical, bodily sense of participating in the Eucharist is not possible at the moment, but we can still make an act of spiritual communion. We are not lost. We are not separated from the love of God. We do not stop loving those we care about even if they move far away from us! Yes, we are physically distant, but there are no obstacles or boundaries that can stop love.
Reflecting this Holy Week and Easter
Even death cannot separate us from those we love. My brother died nearly 20 years ago and yet I know that he is not far away. Sometimes I sense his presence more often, sometimes not so much. During Holy Week we reflect on death. At the moment, perhaps our own death, or the death of someone we love, is on our minds more than it normally would be. Jesus died on the cross, in pain, thirsty, feeling abandoned.
And yet. Jesus rose from the dead. Death is not the end. There is life. At Easter the shoots of the spring plants are appearing. Tiny signs of hope are showing in our community, in our Church, in our life. Now is the time to water those seeds.
It is clear that in the coming months, the communities around the world that you are supporting through your prayer and your gifts, will be experiencing extreme hardship because of the spread of coronavirus. Please continue to keep them in your prayers, as they keep you in theirs.
And always remember the great song of Alleluia, that has been quietened during Lent but which breaks out, unbounded at Easter.
Even though we are physically apart, we can still sing out together. The stone will be rolled back, and the darkness banished. We will acclaim: “Christ is Risen! Alleluia!”