A person praying with a mask on
Each year, the celebration of Holy Week and Easter has a unique significance. Each year, the commemoration of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus intertwines with our life experience in a different way, drawing us more deeply into this great mystery of our faith while molding us into women and men who resemble Jesus.
This year, we approach the celebration of these Sacred Mysteries in a world turned upside down by the coronavirus, which continues to wreak havoc in the lives of so many people. During these past few months, everything has changed; everything looks different. We have come to realize that there are no borders – political, cultural, social, religious or ethnic – and that the life of each one of us is intricately connected with the life of everyone on this earth. We have had to put our plans and projects on hold indefinitely as we continue to live with great uncertainty, not knowing when or how all of this is going to end.
During the 2020 Holy Week and Easter Season, like those around us, we Christians find ourselves confined and have to limit our movements in order to protect others and ourselves from the coronavirus pandemic. We find ourselves confined to our room. Here, we can think of our quiet and repetitive daily lives as a waste of precious time or as an opportunity to rediscover the deeper dimensions of our faith. During this Holy Week and Easter season, are we open to the possibility that a transformation might take place in our room, similar to the transformation that the disciples of Jesus experienced in the Upper Room?
The Upper Room was the place where the greatest drama in human history was played out. For the disciples of Jesus, it was the place of the Last Supper. The place where they hid in fear after the death of Jesus. The place where they encountered the Risen Christ. The place where they welcomed the Holy Spirit and the Church was born. That Upper Room became not just a life-changing experience for the disciples, but also a world-changing experience for all humanity.
It is all there in the Upper Room: on the one hand, the shadows – jealously, betrayal, fear and angst – and on the other hand, the light trying to break through – trust, service, healing and hope.
In following Jesus, his disciples had become part of a success story, thanks to his message, healings and miracles. However, when they gathered for the Last Supper in the Upper Room, their confidence was quickly shattered by misunderstanding and betrayal. The next time they met in the Upper Room, their sense of failure had been compounded by the horrendous death of Jesus.
However, a short time later, it was in that same Upper Room that the risen Christ appeared to them, showed them his scarred body, and shared with them the gift of his peace. Their failure and fear were then transformed by the Spirit into courage and hope, mission and service.
During his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in In May 2014, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Upper Room. In his homily he recalled, “How much love and goodness has flown from the Upper Room! How much charity has gone from here, like a river from its source, beginning as a stream and then expanding and becoming a great torrent. All the saints drew from this source; and hence the great river of the Church´s holiness continues to flow: from the heart of the Church of Christ, from the Eucharist and from the Holy Spirit”
During Holy Week, though we cannot go out to church, whenever we eat and drink, we can ask Jesus to transform our dining room into the Upper Room through the gift of his presence. During the Easter season, whenever we feel anxiety and fear, we can invite the risen Christ to transform our Upper Room into a Mission Center through the gift of the Holy Spirit and of peace.
Even though we are self-isolating, the two actions of Jesus during the Last Supper – the washing of the feet and the breaking of bread – call us to a ministry of service to one another around the kitchen table and more generally around our home.
In the stillness and quietness of our locked-down homes, many of us have the opportunity to open ourselves to the gift of peace that the risen Christ is offering us. Written on the Pascal Candle is ‘2020’ – a reminder that the risen Christ is offering us the gift of peace now, this Easter season. Moreover, many of us have the time and the technology to share this gift of peace with others who are alone or isolated.
In the silence and emptiness of the streets, we are given an opportunity to realize how we have spent so much of our lives running and rushing. Now, as we watch and wait in our Upper Room, we come to a deeper realization of our own fragility, vulnerability and need of others. Without so many things to clutter our minds, we are more receptive to the message and power of the Spirit calling us to see ourselves and the world around us in a fresh way. Like the disciples, praying with Mary the mother of Christ in the Upper Room, during this period of watching and waiting, the Holy Spirit can open our eyes and hearts, and prepare us for mission – prepare us to become messengers of the Good News of God’s unconditional love and mercy for all creation.
This reflection on COVID-19 and Easter was written by the Missionary Society of St. Columban's General Council (or leadership team), based in Hong Kong.