April 24, 2020


Being joyful witnesses amid the coronavirus pandemic

We’ve heard Pope Francis, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, and many other Church leaders echo this sentiment, but it bears repeating: The celebration of Easter this year has been like no other in our lifetime.

We did not gather in our churches throughout central and southern Indiana during the Easter Vigil to welcome hundreds of catechumens and candidates into our family of faith. Our churches were not filled with weekly Mass attendees and “C and E” Catholics who gather with us on Christmas and Easter to celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth and his resurrection.

The coronavirus has resulted in many changes where our lives of faith are concerned. Since mid-March, we have been unable to gather as community and attend Mass in our churches. Thanks to Archbishop Thompson and our priests throughout the archdiocese, we have been able to watch and pray with Mass online each day.

We also have not been able to receive the Eucharist, which St. John Paul II reminded us during his pontificate is the greatest gift of our Catholic faith.

First Communions and confirmations are on hold for our young people, as is the reception of other sacraments like reconciliation for many of us. Eucharistic adoration has also been suspended. The challenges mount as we try and fulfill our call to be missionary disciples. Fortunately, those who are close to death have had priests, in very difficult circumstances, make an extra effort to celebrate the sacrament of the anointing of the sick with them.

Listening to homilies online in recent days has reminded us of our call to ongoing conversion. In this context, it could mean exploring new ways to live out our faith. In a recent editorial, we suggested praying the rosary as a family each day.

Despite the challenges, the Easter season reminds us we are called to holiness and forgiveness.

Pope Francis told us last week that we are called to be joyful witnesses to Christ’s victory over death—even amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In an editorial published on April 17 by the Spanish magazine, Vida Nueva (New Life), the pope said that those who take part in “the Lord’s passion, the passion of our brothers and sisters, even living our own passion, our ears will hear the newness of the resurrection: we are not alone, the Lord precedes us on our journey by removing the stones that paralyze us.”

“If there’s one thing we’ve been able to learn in all this time, it’s that no one is saved alone,” he wrote.

In his editorial, titled “Un plan para resucitar” (“A plan to resurrect”), the pope also acknowledged that an invitation to be joyful “may seem like a provocation or a bad joke in front of the grave consequences we are suffering due to COVID-19.”

But like the women who went to the tomb, the Holy Father wrote, we are surrounded by an atmosphere of sorrow and uncertainty.

In today’s precarious era, the pope said, the stone in front of the tomb symbolizes the worry and anguish that “buries hope,” especially for the elderly, disabled people, families struggling financially, as well as health care workers and public servants who feel “exhausted and overwhelmed.”

The weight of that stone, he added, “seems to have the last word.”

Pope Francis wrote that despite their suffering and fear, the women disciples still went out to the tomb and did “not allow themselves to be paralyzed by what was happening.”

While some Apostles fled, the women carried their spices and oils to anoint Jesus’ body, much like the many men and women today who try to bring “the ointment of co-responsibility to care for and not risk the lives of others.”

“We saw the anointing poured out by doctors, nurses, warehouse workers, cleaners, caretakers, transporters, security forces, volunteers, priests, nuns, grandparents and educators and so many others who were encouraged to give everything they had to bring a little healing, calm and soul to the situation,” the pope wrote.

The good news of Christ’s resurrection, he continued, is what brings hope and joy to all and shows that “our actions—our anointing, our giving, our vigilance and accompanying in all possible ways in this time—are not and will not be in vain.”

“God never abandons his people; he is always close to them, especially when sorrow is most present,” the pope wrote.

This is a time, Pope Francis said, “to unite the entire human family” and to conquer the coronavirus through “the antibodies of solidarity.”

We must especially remember our Holy Father’s message as we celebrate the 50 days of Easter. And although we mark this season in a different way—with social distancing and stay-at-home orders—the message this Easter is the same: Alleluia! Jesus Christ has risen! He has indeed risen!

—Mike Krokos

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