Can we see something in nothing? This pandemic has pulled the shutters down on our future. Everyday life as we know it to be has been taken away. Stay home, into your tomb. Life has emptied out for most of us. We wait in an emptiness. Blinded by an uncertain future, we are unable to see richness in this emptiness. But in this nothingness, we subconsciously cling to hope. There is yet something in emptiness.
“Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed”. (The Gospel of Easter Sunday). John entered the empty tomb. He saw something in nothing. He saw Christ, risen. He saw sense in everything he had learned. He saw his fear of his uncertain future evaporate. He saw his new faith born in that emptiness. John’s life transformed. There is something very powerful in this nothingness for all of us.
This pandemic has forced us to sit in this ‘here and now’. There is a clear and present danger. As each day passes with the virus spreading, we feel more vulnerable. This vulnerability is beginning to ask some tough questions. The first, slightly self-serving, is “What do I want from life?” There may not be a satisfying answer before we go to the next, “What is the meaning of life?” This is now a dialogue with our spiritual self.
This time is an opportunity for contemplation, when life is stuck in the present. This is a time for some soul-searching questions. What is the source of this hope we are sub-consciously clinging on to? We must enter our personal tomb, into the still and quiet of our inner self to listen to what God is saying to ‘me’? There must be something out from the desolation of this virus because “Emmanuel – God-with-us – is a promise that God will be with us every moment. In this emptiness, we are not alone as the Risen Christ walks with us.
We are the faithful. We are called to be light to this darkened world. Pope Francis has a wish for the Church to be “field hospitals”. Our prayerful life in the past was to prepare us for today. We must rise above our personal sufferings to evangelise. We must become the handle of hope, the face of faith in the shattered, fear laden lives of so many people affected, who have suddenly found themselves in emptiness. In their emptiness, they must see us through evangelisation. We must make God real in the reality of their struggles. God need us today to be his vessels of love and compassion. He has no one else to call upon.
Today, we the faithful are in anguish like everyone else. But we have been graced by the sacraments, the strength to rise above self is within us. Jesus was suffering too the night before he died. He responded to his anguish by washing the feet of his disciples. His last chapter on love was “serve others” before he closed it by giving his life to them, us. Despite his suffering, he served.
We are back to the time of Jesus. Many then waited for a Messiah. They expected a king with power to conquer all before him and restore the land to riches. Instead they had a king who hung limply and died on a cross. Today as evangelizers, we will encounter many people plagued by doubt, “If God is real, why does he allow this pandemic that cause so much suffering?”
This is not a judgement of doubters or non-believers but a recognition that every human person is at a different stop on their earthly journey. They cannot yet see something in nothing. Faith has not yet materialised for them. As the faithful, we must help them see as we are called to bring the kingdom of God into their lives.
We must try to make sense of suffering. Can suffering and joy co-exist? There is a reason why the Church emphasise that the Easter Triduum is one complete celebration; to illustrate perhaps there should not be a greeting, “Blessed Good Friday” because it misses the meaning of the Easter Triduum taken as one.
Some people relate more to Good Friday than Easter Sunday, evident in those who come to Church once a year, they come on Good Friday. It shows we are stuck at the foot of the cross in suffering without realising there is already a resurrection. There IS a resurrection after crucifixion, and joy will follow suffering if we embrace this faith in its entirety.
This IS the Good News. We are meant to live as Easter people. “It means we live as a people, all parts of Christ’s Body working together toward a single purpose: love*.”
There is something in the nothingness created by this virus. There is something yet in our own empty tomb. Let us roll back our stone of doubt, unbelief or disbelief, self-anxiety and fear, pride and unforgiveness, anger with God and bitterness, to reconcile, trust and rise in the Risen Christ waiting in our tombs. He commissioned us his army of love, to go and raise the shutters of darkness and let in rays of hope for the many people despaired by the pandemic.
For the Resurrection is Truth. Becoming an Easter people embraces the fullness of Life. In so doing, we empty ourselves of ‘self’ and find that answer to the meaning of life.
*Quote from Vinita Hampton Wright, Live as Easter People. IgnatianSpirituality.com
“This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” (First Reading)
Easter Sunday 2020
Your reflection Tony, made me ask the question, “Is the tomb really empty”. I say this because there were a few unexpected deaths these few weeks; my uncle, a deacon’s wife and my friend’s mother. Their funerals were restricted to a few close family members and a minister. It might seem lonely and empty but I cannot forget that Jesus and our guardian angels are always there. Mortally, it is a lonely journey but Spiritually our life is always surrounded by Jesus and his angels and his saints. There is reason to rejoice even in an empty tomb.