Let’s be honest: Who knew how to spell “Coronavirus (COVID 19)” six months ago? We all heard reports in December that a new virus was emerging in Wuhan, China (I had to look at Google maps to find Wuhan). More, how many of us foresaw the global crisis this invisible invader would initiate? I had never imagined how quickly nations would close schools, churches, government offices, playgrounds, sporting events, and civic life to prevent the spread of this disease. And, I never dreamed there would be a run on supplies like toilet paper.
Yes. I had watched the science-fiction movies about outbreaks, pandemics, disasters, and global diseases. But these were all “entertainment.” It never crossed my mind these science-fiction fantasies would become reality-tv! Deeper down, I was really hoping this would never happen in my life-time!
As we stay connected to the internet updates, news flashes, tweets, Facebook posts, announcements, and public health orders – there is one thing that is clear: We are all afraid! Who among us is not scared for a loved one, a neighbor, a vulnerable person, our children and grandchildren, and our nation? Yet, while we isolate ourselves and practice social-distancing in our homes, we cannot forget: Jesus’s first disciples were afraid for their lives during the weeks leading up to Easter, too! The Gospel of Matthew tells us: “from that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21). Although they were told bad things were going to happen, which of them could have imagined the Passion of the Christ?
We can’t blame them! Who among us could have imagined the week which began with a Triumphal Entry parade (now called, “Palm Sunday”) would end with Jesus’ arrest, death, crucifixion, and burial in a borrowed grave? Within one week (Holy Week), Jesus would go from public miracle-worker surrounded by thousands of fans to isolated and alone (socially-distanced from everyone because of his arrest). The disciples would go from boldly leading public gatherings to “locked in the Upper Room” because “they were afraid” (John 20:19). The city of Jerusalem would go from accolades and parades to anxiety, fear, and panic. Everyone was wondering: What was going to happen next?
Thankfully, that was not the end of the story…Easter happened! God raised Jesus Christ from the dead! And Jesus—now ALIVE again — appeared to his disciples for forty-days (the season Christians call “Eastertide”), reassuring them of his victory, his promises, his Spirit, his presence, and God’s continued work in the world! He was reminding his people: We are not alone even when we are isolated from others! A theme repeated in Paul’s letters from prison.
My brothers and sisters, I know there are a lot of people who are afraid. I do not know if this crisis will be over by Easter. I hope! But one thing I do know: we have nothing to fear! Christ HAS died! Christ IS risen! Christ WILL come again! The Church will gather together again someday, on earth or in heaven. Until then, we are called to: Keep the faith! Practice love and hospitality. Wait for the Lord! As the Apostle John wrote: ”There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18 NIV).