This Holy Saturday’s morning statistics are grim:
· 100,000 dead worldwide
· 18,000 dead in the United States
Every Lent season, the Church promotes a time of reflection on our sin and our mortality. It starts with Ash Wednesday, a reminder that we are nothing but ashes and dust, and that one day we will return to dust. Our life is like grass, fragile and brief, which is blown by the wind and gone forever1. These proclamations makes sense every year, but this year they resonate with us more than before.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen the novel coronavirus go from foreign news to an international situation. It approached different countries, then it made landfall in our own. It spread from state to state. We then heard local reports, and then it became real when someone we know personally became infected. Even now, a simple trip to the grocery store — where entry is barred unless you are wearing a face covering — we are truly in a season of death.
It is no coincidence that the Church has made Death a focal point of its teachings and disciplines. And by that I don’t mean simply answering the question “where will you go when you die?”. More than that, the Christian looks at death as a reminder of one’s finitude and as a consequence for our sinful way of life. It reminds us about who were are as human creatures, particularly in contrast with a holy God.
Death has a way of revealing the heart of man. For many, it is a terrible reality that is avoided until it is unavoidable. For others it makes them mourn the loss of their way of life. Yet even the unbeliever can be shaken by death’s prospect to realize how finite we and our way of life are. To the Christian, it should bring a clear perspective where our hope lies.
When death approaches the Christian, it prompts us: What is important in life? How should we spend our short days? Where is our trust? What are our hopes?
The “stay at home” orders have perhaps added to the lurking feeling of death to force these questions on us. It has revealed that many value their autonomy. So many have chided that the government has infringed upon our rights to assemble, perform commerce, and even to worship. Many have also put their trust in government and health sciences, foolishly believing that all risks can be mitigated by proper action. Still others have bolstered their faith in themselves, thinking that as long as enough food, ammunition, and toilet paper are acquired, me and my family will be okay.
The Christian must look upon this and know that we are not meant to put so much hope in our life in this world.
Hopefully, the absence of family and friends and common goods will teach us that “what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”2. Most of us long to be reunited with our loved ones. My prayer is that we long for them not merely for entertainment or to keep from being lonely, but to serve one another with the love of Christ. I pray that we see the meagerness that can become life. Our culture is good at helping us build a life centered around corruptible things. You know, the things that “moth and rust” can destroy. Hopefully, since we have had most luxuries taken away by the shutdown of our economy, we are able focus on storing up “treasures in heaven”3.
On this Holy Saturday, we can commiserate with the followers of Jesus before the resurrection of Christ. We are living with a deep uncertainty. We are face to face with grim realities and we are often times at a loss to a course of action.
But thanks be to God that we are aware of the bigger story, one in which COVID-19 is a trial that must be endured, but is not the final chapter. We now live with confidence in the supreme power of the living Christ to conquer death and bring forth life.
Let us leave this season of Lent with joy in the promised life which Christ gives abundantly to those whom belong to Him.