In these days, attentive reflection moves all of us, in the world, in a similar direction. We find ourselves sharing in and being made participants, as never before, in the Passion of the Christ. We have seen it in the visually fatigued, suﬀering face and faltering steps of the Holy Father, at St. Peter’s, on March 27. His message, in Jesus’ words, was clear: “Be not afraid… I am with you” (Mk 4,35-41; Mt 8,23-27). We are traveling the Way of the Cross.
Just as Pope Francis, we are all inhaling, in a myriad of ways, this worldwide sorrow, the penance of loss and separation, the fear, anxiety, unknowing and hardship of living with an undisclosed reality in ourselves, along with others and before God, that is totally devoid of security and any semblance of a clear path forward.
Prayer and relationship with the Lord are becoming a silent, and at times, a strained presence, a martyrdom of aloneness, solitude, distancing, staying to one’s self, discovering or rediscovering what is in the inner self. There is a desert we are facing and passing through—40 days, already four months. Like Jesus and the real temptations in His life,— in our lives, we are fighting against: a famine, a discouragement, a loss of power, a loss of control.
The very essence of what it is to be a man, a woman, our lives and the freedom to relate are questioned and feared. The meaning? The value? The forced separations and distancing? The way forward? All of us have been caught oﬀ-guard by the Coronavirus!
The negativity of the events we are experiencing is calling out from deep within, as it did in Jesus’ deep sighs (Mk 8,12; Jn 11,33) of questioning, pleading: “Abba, Father, for you everything is possible. Take this cup away from me. But let it be as you, not I, would have it.” (Mk 14,36)
That, which is invisible to our eyes, is reaching down deep into the inner fiber of our souls, pulling out sighs and groans (Rm 8,26-27) that we cannot even decipher and are unable to fathom or understand. We are prohibited from running out into the world of fleeting, distracting and superficial relationships that arise, exhilarate for a moment, and then burn oﬀ quickly like smoke. We are treading on our fragility as never before, being made aware of our impotence in the face of a pride of omnipotence, self-determination and individual independence. We believe it is we who decide and direct our lives. We cling to this freedom, feeling that it is we who live and move and have our being (Acts 17,28) as if it were our very own.
Maybe, this is the exceptional grace in this very special, and oh, so diﬀerent Lent, this year of 2020. We can no longer lose sight of the essential — the essence, the very meaning of our lives, being drawn back to the heart of life, meaning and existence (Hos 14,2). We do not own ourselves! We do not direct all the aﬀairs of our lives, of the world, of the future we desire and envision. There is a mystery and a presence beyond us, leading, guiding, and enlightening, if we will but have eyes to see and ears to hear (Mt 13,15-17; Mk 8,18).
We are not our own creation. The Spirit breathes from within us (Rm 8,14-16). We have a Father, a Teacher (Mt 23,8-10), who calls us by name (Mk 2,13-14; Jn 20,16) and beloved (Jn 15,9), friend (Jn 15,14-15), my brother, sister and even mother (Mk 3, 34-35)! We are not alone (Jn 14,18), even in the corridors of contamination and sickness where no one can approach and physically hold our hand, speak those familiar words of family and friends encouraging us onward and beyond the barrier of death.
We are being called to new depths and new breadths in this Lent of human history. The coronavirus has crossed all national, religious and economic barriers and boundaries, classes, ethnic restraints, genders, age limits. The whole earth is involved. The relational and reciprocal experience of love and suﬀering in the out-pouring and self-emptying of those involved, the living and dying in this corona pandemic, in particular those serving, is evidence of the Christ event taking place, universal suﬀering and love being lifted up.
This is the paschal mystery, the Son of Man is lifted up (Jn 8,27) and drawing all to Himself here and now. The universal Christ is being revealed in the great suﬀering and the great love that humanity is bearing and passing through in this “new exodus” from self and economic absorption, towards a more relational, more reflective and respectful living in communion, mutuality and concern for the whole of creation. This great suﬀering and great love mirror a transformation that is taking place. The love of the Heart of God expands and includes, while imposed suﬀering constrains, excludes, inhibits and undermines the very fabric of human existence and even the planet “earth.” Suﬀering, such as this, is evil. It has been assumed and embraced, its evil eﬀects transformed through the self-emptying (Phil 2,6-11), out pouring redemptive love of the “beloved son” (Mk 9,7), the “suﬀering servant” (Is 52,13 – 53,12) of the Father.
Great love grows through great suﬀering endured, surrendered to and transformed in the crucible of transforming grace. This is God’s doing, a new creation, the ever present Risen-ness of Jesus Christ in our lives.
There is a mysterious expansion of galaxy measure that reaches out in hope, life and love, when each and every one of us transcends our small ego, trusting to lose and find our lives in following Jesus (Mk 8,34-35).
As the single grain dies (Jn 12,24), in order to bear fruit, let us in this Holy Week, 2020, with Jesus’ strengthening and saving grace:
- die to our individualism that isolates us in our own world
- die to our omnipotence that blinds us from seeing others
- die to the all-consuming power that seeks superiority, and relinquish the dominating control, which kills our relating.
This will give us a good start in the Easter season to bear fruit in compassion, generosity, humility, patience and service. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another (Jn 15,13), and this “other” is universally my brother, my sister. As we lose our lives for the Lord and for others, we will be “finding the life” (Mt 16,25); and perhaps, may even be some of those privileged ones “who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God” (Lk 9,27).
As priests, as religious, as laity, let us be witnesses to the Resurrection of the Lord, bringing this world of ours together in joy, hope and belief. The Lord is Risen, Alleluia! “Go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; that is where you will see him, just as he told you’ (Mk 16,7).”
Sister Terezinha Esperanza Merandi, MSC
Photo: Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square March 27. Photo credit: Alessandra Tarantino, Associated Press