“I keep expecting him to walk through the door. Or, I’m ready to share an idea, ask a question or make a comment and then I realize he’s gone.”
Betsy’s husband died unexpectedly, and the shock of his death was still fresh when she made that comment. Anyone who’s lost a loved one can relate.
It makes me wonder what it was like for the apostles when three days after Jesus died, he began appearing to them, walking through walls, breaking bread and cooking breakfast. The events of the past few days must have seemed like a nightmare from which they had just awakened, and yet confusion and disbelief led to more question than answers.
What did Jesus’ resurrection mean? What would their life be like now? Did his rising from the dead mean that he would finally establish the kingdom they had all expected? For the apostles who were experiencing the dying and rising of Jesus in real time, nothing made sense.
Unlike the apostles, we know the end of the story and have answers to their questions, yet we still live in times of uncertainty, and unknowns continue to challenge us and test our faith. Like the apostle Thomas who found it hard to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, reassurance comes most often when we touch the wounds of Christ by touching the wounds of his people.
When discipleship takes us to Calvary, the resurrection of Jesus is more than just another Gospel story, the Paschal Mystery is a lived reality, not simply a profession of faith. Without the cross the resurrection loses its significance, and like it or not, the cross is the only way we can experience the resurrection.
To believe God loves us when life places us at the foot of the cross requires faith, but faith cannot be a standalone virtue. Unless faith leads to hope, and hope inspires charity, we are what St. Paul referred to as “a noisy gong and clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1). The apostle James used even stronger language: “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (Jas 2:18).
In recent years a spirit of isolationism has plagued our country and has become a rallying cry among developed nations, much to our detriment. Perhaps one lesson we can take from the spread of the coronavirus is that one person’s behavior affects the lives of many. Our connectedness to one another crosses boundaries, oceans and airspace
We are created in God’s image, which means we are a community. The oneness of being that is manifested in the love relationship between the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit calls us to live in communion with people around the globe.
As one in the Body of Christ, when one person hurts, we all hurt, and the entire world suffers. The coronavirus, which has been dubbed the invisible enemy, is not the only enemy we are having to confront. During times of crisis, we are called to examine the enemy within.
The element of surprise is an effective way to get people’s attention, arouse curiosity and investigate options. Jesus certainly got the attention of the apostles when he rose from the dead, and COVID-19 has certainly captured ours.
Like the apostles, we are being called to look beyond the cross, embrace our limitations and trust that God will supply what is needed to remain faithful. Had the apostles known in the beginning that discipleship would lead to martyrdom, they would not have answered Jesus’ call to “Follow me,” which is the reason God meets us where we are on the journey. As Jesus said, those who have more will be given more, and he wasn’t talking about monetary wealth.
Hopefully, the resurrection story enkindles in us a new way of seeing, prompting us to set aside self-serving aspirations and to re-order values and priorities. God still uses the cross to transform disciples from sayers to believers to doers. God didn’t cause the coronavirus, but he can use it if we take to heart the lessons it has to teach.
One day we’ll remember these sad times: the daily count of the dead, lines at the hospitals, the frantic search for personal protective equipment and respirators. We will regard health care workers, grocery clerks and good Samaritans as life-saving heroes.
However, as people of faith, we are all called to do our part by sharing the gifts God has given us. Our act is to pray for an end to the pandemic, pray for those on the front lines, pray for family and friends and pray for the Church.
As an army of believers, we fight the invisible enemy with the invisible power of faith, made visible through the power of love.