For many of us it is a question of time before humanity develop a vaccine that will overcome this virus. Few who read this will dwell on the possibility of death. Yet thousands have died, their prayers seemingly in vain. Health is a very fine line; on one side, confidence and on the other, desperation. Confidence arises out of faith. Either faith from our trust in medical science or from our trust in God behind the work of medical science.
What if there is no vaccine? Will desperation shift us towards God?
Today we enter Holy Week, perhaps at a most appropriate time. We come face to face with the suffering of Christ. We remember his painful prayer on the rock of agony the night before he died, “Father, take this cup away from me”. As one humanity we have been praying for a vaccine so that this cup of suffering from the virus will be taken away from us.
For many of us, these are indeed desperate times. As this pandemic form a cross of suffering, we are stripped of our life as we know it and scourged by fear and worry. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Every year Holy Week comes around to remind us to focus on heavenly things. This year it comes at a time when every earthly thing in the form of wealth, status and power that we cling dearly to are vulnerable against this virus. Today in front of each of us is a personal cross.
“Take up your cross and follow me”.
We are called into constant repentance, not to sit in sack cloths beating ourselves with guilt but to continue to refine our life to be a better person, to be one who will rise into our ultimate destination of heavenly glory. Repentance has never been about judgement. It has always been about God’s desire, out of love, for us to be risen. Holy Week tells us that the cross triumphs over inevitable human suffering. But amidst this pandemic, maybe we are not quite ready to hear that.
Many are suffering. Many lost their jobs or are about to lose them. These are very difficult times and we must be sensitive to our human state. Worry, fear and anger with God are natural responses because we are human mortals. Worry is like falling into a quicksand pit. It will consume us if we don’t reach out and grab something that can save us. The only thing is front of us today is our personal cross. There is no choice but to intentionally take it.
We are never ready. We are being human. We contemplate this week about Christ himself, praying on that rock for the cup to be taken away, that being human he never wanted his suffering and dying on the cross. But he emptied himself. He de-focused from ‘self’ and thought about the ‘other’. And did the will of God. Love others. This virus has put us on our own personal rock of agony.
When we intentionally take up our cross, we make ourselves available for the other person. There are enough people around us suffering in various ways today. We must rise above our own and go out to help others whether it is to provide material needs or to provide our time to offer consolation. People in medical care are our heroes today. They discounted their own life and that of their family to give life to others. Taking up our cross embraces the spirit of compassion that is born out of it. This spirit is life-giving and ensures that we will rise from our suffering.
This is how Christ invites us to unite with his suffering. When we help others while suffering ourselves, we make the voice of Christ authentic and louder. When we intentionally take up our cross, we embark on this mission to bring the love of God into the realities of others’ lives. We become authentic disciples. In the acts of being disciples we open ourselves to being healed and detached from our worries. In taking up our cross, we eventually find peace and rise above our own suffering.
We enter Holy Week. The peace from being lockdown is surreal. We have a lot of idle energy. ‘Idle’ because this energy would otherwise be used for our work and other earthly schedules. But everything is standing still. It gives us the opportunity to contemplate. In this quiet stillness we come face to face with our personal cross.
If there is no vaccine to get us out of this virus, this way of the cross is our only way out. We may channel this energy to take up our cross. If we take it, come what may, this Easter we will together rise to new life.
Palm Sunday, start of Holy Week