There are many editorials and commentaries on these times of COVID-19. In addition to the actual news from the medical and congressional fields and the number of cases and deaths in states, there are stories of selfless acts of courage and compassion from ordinary people. The social and TV media is getting very philosophical about the massive cultural shift going on in everyone’s life. For some, the greatest stress is financial, for others it is the isolation; for some, it is the loss of a loved one.
Medically, children do not seem to be the target of this coronavirus. However, attention needs to be paid to the toll it is having on our children. They are out of school and off their normal routine, which is extremely difficult for children. Routine helps them; it can be a security blanket for them. They are also picking up the stress of their parents. They hear what adults hear. They absorb the news and the fears.
One five-year-old told his mother he was sad because people were dying without anyone near them. They couldn’t say goodbye to their families. They couldn’t have a funeral for people to say goodbye to them, because they can’t be near each other. He was so sad for them.
This little child had the wisdom often seen in a child. Free from political views or stereotypes, he felt and experienced the suffering of others being alone in their suffering. This is not a philosophical commentary on unusual times; it is an honest acknowledgement of suffering. Perhaps we adults need a similar honesty.
Before we jump to true stories of personal courage during this pandemic, stories that might give us hope and comfort, we must face the suffering. A terrible virus has upended our world from one end to another. People are enduring unbearable stress, fear and loss.
“We suffer, we suffer into truth. In our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the human heart and in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” (“Agamemnon” by Aeschylus)
If churches were open, they would be filled as they were after 9/11. But they aren’t. God is, however, open for business as always, as intimately, as close as ever.
Jesus suffered unbearably for us two thousand years ago. His Father was with him. He bore a crown of thorns. Corona is Latin for crown, and it is, indeed, a crown of thorns for the world. Our Stations of the Cross this year were on our empty streets, in our abandoned schools, in our overburdened hospitals and long testing lines for the virus. He is falling again, over and over, when any of us falls ill. By Jesus’ holy cross he redeemed the world. In our own crosses, we share in that healing of the world. We are not alone. We can face our fears and despair, our anxiety and our pain. We can find solace in the presence of the Divine closer to us than any virus. Jesus promised to be with us always. And he promised us life.
Easter was not celebrated in churches this year or in a parade on Fifth Avenue. It was celebrated in each of us when the Spirit of God gives hope to us. The first Easter was not a huge gathering. It was Jesus finding people in their homes or gardens, on the roads and in a small gathering in an upper room. Social distancing was the norm for the Resurrection of Jesus on that first Easter.
Without the lilies and the bells, it was Easter still the same. It is still spring; the virus can’t stop that. The robins are back, crocuses and daffodils are pushing their way up through winter’s dead leaves. The sun is warmer, days are longer. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead! Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.