Covid-19 has devastated and decimated the whole world of humanity. We have come face to face with our fragility and liminality. We have discovered, painfully so, that we are among the weakest and the most helpless creatures of God’s creation. Scripture tells us that “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone…” (Ps 103: 15-16, NRSV). “… Like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall” (1 Peter 1: 24). We mourn the death and destruction of our family all over the world. We share the pain of our common humanity at this time. We turn to God, the source of healing and hope, whose word endures forever (1 Peter 1: 25), whose steadfast love never ceases and whose mercies and faithfulness are new every morning (Lam. 3: 22-24).
With the confirmed cases of Covid-19 increasing by tens of thousands daily and the death rate mounting by thousands, all humanity is plunged into the abyss of chaos. Many of us, perhaps most of us, are still wishing this away as an ugly nightmare, that we will wake up and it is all gone, no more than a bad dream.
Unfortunately, we cannot entertain this luxury for long. People are dying, people are suffering, people are hurting – it is real.
Covid-19 has exposed the undeniable interconnectedness of peoples all across the world; and it has revealed how foolish we have been to allow racism, patriarchy, nationalism and other forms of ideologies of supremacy and prejudice to stand in the way of our relationship with one another. Now in this hour of coronavirus pandemic, we realise how much we need each other and, indeed, how enriching it is to serve and humbling to be served.
It is the tremendous goodwill of the people of the Earth, the capacity for kindness and generosity of spirit, the willingness to go beyond the call of duty and across the barriers of race, gender, sexuality or nationality, and the pure love for one another that have emerged as the best medicine to combat coronavirus.
Covid-19 has also revealed to us the heavy weight that humans have placed on the rest of God’s creation by virtue of our superiority complex, in relation to the rest of creation, and our self-serving lifestyle. The vast dichotomy that we have established between economy and ecology, in favour of the economy, has now proven to be a false one; and the truth is revealed that the one does not exist without the other and that human beings need both in order to survive. We have allowed our insatiable appetite for a lavish lifestyle, infested by consumerism and greed, to dictate our relationships. We have paid scant regard to the Earth, destroyed the flora and fauna and driven the sea life into extinction.
But now the Earth is singing, the sea life is dancing, the trees are clapping. The groaning creation is liberated from the strain of human bondage. Suddenly the whole planet Earth is regenerating as the human community is forced into isolation.
Indeed, Babylon has fallen. The forces and structures we thought were unbreakable are tumbling down before our very eyes; and they seem of little importance compared to our lives. All the things we thought were so essential to life have suddenly been put aside as we struggle to keep humanity alive. The whole world is shaken. Over two hundred countries are hit by the same virus. We wake up every morning reading from the same script, counting dead bodies and wondering, even predicting, about spikes, peaks, leveling off and control – an end to the monster, coronavirus.
Unfortunately, perhaps it had to take something as deadly as this to bring us to our senses. Maybe this is our Good Friday – the sacrifice of the innocent for our sin and folly. And we are yet to experience the day after – the desperate Saturday of unbelief, stricken with grief, tormented and confused. The first disciples of Jesus were traumatised by the reality of his crucifixion. They had hoped that things would have gone very differently. They vested their trust and security in Jesus; but Jesus had failed them, at least so it seemed. They recalled his weak, frail, vulnerable, dead body on the cross. Empire had won, at least so it seemed also. Their path to a life in the quagmire of disappointment, doubt and dread of the future hit home. Their notions of hope lie buried.
But thank God, we can speak of resurrection, a theology of rising to life from the dungeons of death and destruction.
Resurrection theology tells us that there is indeed a glimmer of light while it is still dark. In the gospel, according St. John 20: 1, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb”. Having seen what had happened Mary went and told Simon Peter and another of Jesus’ disciples what she had seen. They too went to the tomb and found that it was empty. The linen in which they wrapped Jesus on that ghastly Friday, called “Good”, was lying there but Jesus was gone. As the story unfolds the disciples were to experience the presence of the risen Jesus; and they were emboldened to declare, with confidence and conviction, that Jesus was risen and alive.
There is indeed a glimmer of light while it is still dark.
“Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed” (Jn. 20: 1). The other disciple reached the tomb… bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there (: 2-5). Then Simon Peter came… and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head… rolled up in a place by itself (: 6-7). Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed” (J: 8).
And now the story returns to Mary, the weeping disciple, traumatised and broken; but still looking amid the darkness of her circumstances. “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him” (Jn. 20: 13). But, amid the darkness and terror of the moment, Mary has now come into her own resurrection encounter and experience. “When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there…” (Jn 20: 15-18). In this story there are layers upon layers of darkness – from mere coming to the tomb, to looking in, to going in and to keep on looking. The tomb that was meant to seal their destiny in horror was now the source of their hope and future. They saw the glimmer of light while it was still dark – the tomb was empty.
And this is my Easter message to the world amid this gloomy moment when we are infested and affected by Covid-19. There is a glimmer of light while it is still dark. Indeed, “There is a soul of goodness in things evil, if we would observingly distill it out” (Shakespeare). We must not give up even when evil stares us in the face. We dare not yield to the forces of death and destruction, despite the compelling pressure to surrender. We cannot afford to stop looking, past the dark, beyond the glimmer of light for greater revelation yet. Maybe God is speaking to us through planet Earth. Maybe the Earth is calling for rest and replenishment. Maybe we have not been looking at the desolation we have brought upon the Earth. By God’s grace may we now look beyond the desolation for the new Heaven and the new Earth that God has promised through the proclamations of the prophets.
I encourage us all to rise to the opportunities that Covid-19 has placed before us – opportunities to rise above self-centred preoccupation, to reclaim the God-given “soul of goodness” within us and to play our part in restoring the Earth so that all of God’s creation may flourish.