I know that, to make some sense of any of this, I must look at the whole Easter mystery which we shall be celebrating during this week. After his Last Supper, Jesus went into the garden. From then on, he is on his own, isolated. I believe that the spiritual/psychological suffering of Jesus's loneliness, the sense of feeling abandoned (even by his own Father), was bigger than the physical one. And yet, it was not time wasted. It was necessary. Rather than an end in itself, it was a means, an instrument that led to the Resurrection. And as we know, the Resurrection is never a return to the previous life, but a passage to something much bigger.
It makes sense that mother-Church invites us to reflect on the whole passion narrative in the gospel of today’s Mass. There is too much in this story for us to fully digest on Good Friday only. The gospel of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is proclaimed during the rite of blessing of palms, but then the passion story is read during the Mass itself. I invite each one of you to pick up this gospel and read it slowly and prayerfully, a bit at a time, during the week. This will give you an opportunity to journey with Jesus from the joy of Palm Sunday into his last days on earth with his disciples. Allow yourself time to feel the change in mood, from joy to sadness and pain and hopelessness. Feel the sense of loss and confusion experienced by the disciples, and the great pain experienced by Mary his mother and the small group of women accompanying her. Try to imagine what was going through Peter’s mind when part of him wanted to follow and be with his Master, and yet he was so scared that he denied even knowing the man. Finally, contemplate the abandonment Jesus felt from the cross, followed by his own total abandonment into his Father’s hands. All this leads to our Easter celebration on Saturday night. The night of all nights, when victory is proclaimed and celebrated over sin, death, and all that is evil in our lives and in our world.
Never as this year have the pain, loneliness, uncertainty and fear that are evident in this story resonated in our lives. Thanks to all that is happening due to the coronavirus, these are real feelings, not just elements in a story. As a priest I’ve had people speak to me about their fears during these days - fear for their own safety and for that of their loved ones. Fear that paralyzes them. I’ve heard people express doubt as to whether this will ever pass. I’ve heard many people speak of loneliness as social distance and isolation suddenly become our new household words. And yet, the story of Easter tells us that there is something, or someone, more powerful than all this.
Like those hours on the cross, the time we are living in can truly be a “sacred time”. Irrespective of how long this will take and of what happens in the meantime, we believe that there is someone who is powerful enough to bring something good out of it. After all, it is the same One who brought order out of the primordial chaos.
And life after the resurrection is never a return to the old life. It is an introduction to a life that is better beyond human imagination.
And, by the way, in spite of our “lonely” celebrations, we shall be prayerfully united with you as we present you on God’s altar.