Dear People of St. Dunstan’s,
It’s been almost a month since COVID-19 has been front of mind for all of us; front of mind, indeed, for the world. Locally, our cases appear manageable. Nationally, we hear troubling stories, though some tentative indication, in places, of an ever-so-slight “bending of the curve.” We are being reminded of our call to be of firm resolve in heeding the advice of the officials asking us to stay at home as much as we can, and if we must go out, to observe physical distancing.
All of this in the midst of the season when we remember and celebrate the events central to Christian belief: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We’ll not soon forget the Holy Week of 2020. How do we integrate the great mystery of the dying and the rising of the Lord into our current state of affairs? That’s a question Christians are invited to ask ourselves in every situation of life. It’s all the more important these days.
In the gospel of Palm Sunday, we listened to Matthew’s Passion story. We heard of the sky darkening that Friday from noon until three, when Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and breathed his last. After Joseph of Arimathea claims the body of Jesus and lays it in his own new tomb, we’re told he then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Further to that, some Pharisees then went to Pilate, afraid that by some trickery the disciples would come and remove the dead body as a way of falsely claiming Jesus had risen, as he had said. With Pilate’s permission, they went with the guard [of soldiers] and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone. Sealed stone and guards: all intended to make sure death retained the upper hand.
At the Easter Vigil this year, that stone is again featured in the gospel. After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an Angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. And not only that; from the mouth of God’s messenger, these words to the women: Do not be afraid; I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here for he has been raised, as he said.
A great stone, sealed with what we’d call cement, and a guard of soldiers. Nothing could prevent the Son of God from conquering the forces of death and destruction, and pouring forth the boundless life of the Spirit upon the face of the earth. Nothing—not even COVID-19!
You and I have the benefit of hindsight; we know how the story ends before we even begin to listen to it. Mary Magdalene, Peter, James, John and the others had no such inside track. When they saw the dead body of Jesus taken down from the cross and carried to the tomb, no-one would have been able to convince them that their life was not as forsaken as they assumed Jesus’ to have been. It took them a while to be convinced that they had been too hasty in their judgement about their future. Eventually, though, as the story continues, they recovered hope, and spread the message of resurrection wherever they went and to whomever would listen.
Worried and forlorn and afraid, convinced they would never smile again. And all of that, changed and healed and transformed because God had abandoned neither Jesus nor them. That’s where we and our wearied world greet the resurrection of Jesus this Easter of 2020. We’re living in a reality we haven’t met before. We can identify with the dark sky over Mount Calvary. But let’s remember what was found as the first day of the week was dawning.
Easter is our assurance. It doesn’t deny the pain and anguish of the cross, our struggle in this moment, the seriousness of the virus, our duty to act responsibly. It does, though, reassure us that, in Christ, pain and anguish do not have the final say. Death does not speak the last word; life does. Let that truth, my brothers and sisters, be the foundation of our courage and our hope. Let us journey together, in the company of the world-wide community, toward the day when with the help of God’s grace, the dedication of human intelligence, and our own commitment to work together for the common good, we shall be victorious.
I want to let you know that on Easter Sunday morning, we plan to live-stream the Mass at 10:30. Since there is no internet connection in the church, the Mass will be celebrated at SDU Place. You may access it through www.facebook.com/events/852478971899262 . Pray that the technology works!! Thanks to Joe Chevarie for his invaluable assistance. Note, due to the current restrictions, there will be no congregation. A reminder for us all to be united in prayer, at home, at noon Easter Sunday, when the Basilica’s bells will ring out with those of other churches, in the hope of resurrection.
Pray for all afflicted by the virus and for those who provide us with essential services. All the while, as a sign I read downtown this week recommends, “Let’s do what Dr. Morrison says.”
From my previous letters, you have my contact information, and particulars on the services others have offered to provide. Please don’t hesitate to be in touch. I’d love to hear from you any time.
My thoughts and prayers accompany you every day. Please pray for me. May the grace of the risen Lord fill your hearts and homes with the very life of God, as we celebrate the resurrection, and always. And remember Do not be afraid…for he has been raised, as he said…
Peace be with you,
Queen of heaven, rejoice. Alleluia! For the Son whom it was your privilege to bear, Alleluia! Has risen as he said, Alleluia! Rejoice and be glad O Virgin Mary, for the Lord has truly risen. Alleluia!