Celebrating the Resurrection in a time of pandemic
Easter Season 2020: And it seems that COVID-19 rules the world. Apparently, it determines who lives and who dies, who is free and who is shackled, who eats and who goes hungry.
What of it?
- God is really hard to kill—the Romans couldn’t do it—though they appeared to succeed; the communists couldn’t do it—though they are still trying; the secular humanists couldn’t do it—but they can’t acknowledge their failure because they’re still too busy fleeing from their misery;
- God is easy to deny, but it is very hard to do that well. The great Catholic scholar Etienne Gilson wrote: “Real agnostics are exceedingly rare, and they harm nobody but have no gods. Much more common, unfortunately, are those pseudoagnostics who, because they combine scientific knowledge and social generosity with a complete lack of philosophical culture, substitute dangerous mythologies for the natural theology which they do not even understand.” In other words, the so-called atheists are not nearly as smart, and certainly not as wise, as they think they are—and not nearly as smart or wise as they or we need to be.
- God is frightfully easy to trivialize—experience shows that God is all too easily treated as the celestial Santa Claus, or customer service representative at the Heavenly Complaints Department — someone you expect to be there when it suits you to call on him. It seems that we prefer a well-trained pet, one that comes when calls, and then sits quietly in the corner until next time.
Nonetheless, whether you deny God or trivialize God or forget God, you can’t do so indefinitely. Sooner or later, preferably in this life while you can still do something about it, you will find that God is sovereign, God is omnipotent, God is triumphant—as revealed in the resurrection of his crucified Christ.
So we’d better get busy!
In this time of undeniable crisis, people are asking anxiously, “Is this the end time? Are we in the last days?” I acknowledge the sincerity of the people asking those questions, but, sadly, those questions miss the point.
The point is this: Since the resurrection, we have been living in the end of time. These are the last days! The reign of Satan the usurper was overthrown at Calvary—and the proof of that victory is the resurrection of Christ. Right now we, like all people before us—we in our time and place are invited by Christ to share in his victory by working with him to restore all of creation to our heavenly father.
At every moment, we are called by the crucified, risen, reigning and returning Christ to put off the dirty rags and swear off the enticements of this fallen and vanquished world. This is what we must understand, especially in what is being called a time of pandemic: Everyone is always dying. This world is always running out of time. We are all of us rushing towards eternity. In this final era, in this last age, we, like all before us, must decide whether we will enter eternity as Christlike or as rebels. Christ our Lord always offers us at every moment all we need to become more and more like him, so that at the end of this passing life, we may be presented to the throne of our heavenly father, who will see and love in us what he sees and loves in his only begotten son.
Let’s go back to the gospel of the Easter Vigil:
The angel says, “Behold, I have told you.” I think that’s angel-speak for, “Don’t just stand there! What else are you waiting for?”
Then Our Lord says: “Go tell my brothers …”
During this Easter Season of 2020, at the start of the apparent reign of COVID-19, we recall that divine light blazed out of the darkness, Jesus Christ tells us that we, like him, and with him, if we choose him, each and all of us together have a mission to die and rise with him for the life of the world, and for the glory of our heavenly father. Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, be sure that your present trials will pass, that a victory is offered, that hope will prevail, and that you are not alone. All the members of the body of Christ, along with the entire company of Heaven, can work together to go forward from death to life, from darkness to light.
He is risen! Go tell the world!
A most blessed Easter to one and all!
When I write next, I will offer another meditation for Easter. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.
Full text of Pope Francis’ homily of Holy Saturday: On our right to hope