"It is not the end ... it's a new beginning."
Our faith beckons us to remember that hope and joy can prevail where once only terror and death reigned. We are an Easter people, called forth to continue to proclaim the good news and to search for light where there is temptation to perceive only darkness, especially in a world held hostage by COVID-19. Our hearts are breaking for those losing their lives without the comfort of their family, friends and faith communities. Our prayers are with the healthcare providers who are risking their lives with compassion. We are given statistics and brace ourselves for the wave that is gathering energy here in the United States. We prepare for possibilities and pray for miracles. This is an Easter season markedly different than most others.
As we prioritize prayer and pause, we remember that over 2,000 years ago, another community much like ours was also struggling with death — the death of Jesus whose body was placed in a tomb. There was no funeral celebration, no gathering by the thousands of people he once served, led, healed and, most importantly, loved. Worlds were turned upside down as friends, family members and one-time mission partners sheltered in place, weathering the storm of loss and the danger of their own possible death. Not death from a virus, but through relationship with Jesus.
From the Gospel of John, we hear the story of Mary Magdalene who goes in search of her beloved friend and mentor, Jesus, but cannot find his body. She rallies fellow disciples Simon Peter and others, explaining her discovery of an empty tomb and the visceral desire to take action. Grief, pain, worry, and anger are just a few of the emotions coursing through their hearts as they struggled to make sense of the scene before them. Navigating uncharted territory, the community does not yet realize the meaning of what they are witnessing.
Today, our struggle to understand the meaning of the times we are facing echoes this recounting.
With hearts broken, in the depths of despair, we cling to the words in Matthew’s Gospel that widen our vision. The angel of the Lord’s words are like balm restoring joy to our ailing souls. The tomb is transformed from a place of ultimate sadness to a space in which we can begin to understand eternal life. The tomb is empty. Jesus is not there. Tears of pain turn to tears of joy as they sprint to share the good news. But before reaching their destination they encounter Jesus who encourages them to keep going, to go tell the others and to know that they will meet again. It is not the end. Instead, it’s a new beginning.
And so, as we scour the news for stories of recovery and inspiration in the midst of widespread loss, we too are watching the tomb. I have found two such stories that radiate hope: one of a 90-year-old woman and the other about a 101-year-old man. They are the human proclamation of joy. Reminiscent of Mary Magdalene’s haste, their stories race towards the world with hope!
As we socially distance and follow the mandates of the CDC, let us also look for the signs of hope and joy in our midst.
Christ is among us and in each of us.
Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.