By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
“Rejoice” is the first word spoken by the Risen Lord. He used it to greet “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary after they had discovered that the tomb was empty…. He is the Risen One and wants to raise these women to new life, and with them, all of humanity”.
Thus Pope Francis begins a reflection on the connection between Jesus’s Resurrection and the current crisis into which we all have been plunged. The reflection appeared on Friday on the website of the Spanish-language periodical Vida Nueva.
Inviting the disciples going to Emmaus to rejoice would have been provoking, Pope Francis continues. Our experience today, he reflects, is much like that of the first disciples. We, like them, “live surrounded by an atmosphere of pain and uncertainty…” and are asking “Who will roll away the stone?" (Mk 16:3). He describes the tombstone as one that “threatens to bury all hope” and enumerates the consequences so many are living: the elderly forced into complete isolation, families who can no longer put food on the table, frontliners who are “exhausted and overwhelmed”. It’s a “heaviness” he says, “that seems to have the last word”.
Disciples bearing perfume
It’s the women who did not allow the events of Christ’s Passion to paralyze them, Pope Francis said. In this reflection, he picks up where he began in his homily of the Easter vigil. “Out of love for the Master, and with their typical, irreplaceable and blessed feminine genius, they were able to confront life as it came”. While the Apostles first fled, denied Him, then hid out of fear, the woman found ways to overcome every obstacle in their path. They did it by simply “being and accompanying”.
Many today are “carrying perfume” and “bringing the anointing” of “co-responsibility”. They are ministering to the Lord in their brothers and sisters. Some do this by not being a risk to others, others put their lives at risk. “Doctors, nurses, people stocking supermarket shelves, cleaners, caretakers, people who transport goods, public safety officials, volunteers, priests, women religious, grandparents, educations, and many others” have asked the same question the women asked: “Who will roll away the stone?” Yet, the Pope acknowledges, this has not keep them from “doing what they felt they could and were obliged to do”.
The Lord precedes us
The joy that the disciples discovered was in Jesus that the vigil they had kept for the Lord, “even in death and their greatest despair, had not been in vain”. Instead, it allowed them to be “anointed by the Resurrection: they were not alone. He was alive and preceded them on their journey”. This is the news that was capable of “breaking the cycle that kept them from seeing that the stone had already been rolled away”. That joy is our joy too.
Many are participating in the Lord’s passion, either personally or at the side of their brothers and sisters. There, “our ears will hear the newness of the Resurrection: we are not alone, the Lord precedes us on our journey and removes the stones that paralyze us”. No one can rob us of this hope. It cannot become infected. “All the life of service and love that you are giving at this time will beat once again.” The Lord only needs a “crack” where His anointing can enter which will “allow us to contemplate this painful reality with a renewed outlook”, the Pope says.
The next step is to retrace our steps, just as the women in the Gospel did. That action is a symbol of lives transformed by the Easter proclamation, Pope Francis explains. It’s living with the realization that the Lord regenerates hope by constantly doing something new. A renewed outlook is one that sees how this “something new” is “already springing up” (see Is 43:18).
No one is saved alone
The community of disciples discovered something that we are now discovering, the Pope continues: “no one is saved alone.” Borders and walls are crumbling. “Fundamentalist discourse is dissolving before an almost imperceptible presence that manifests the fragility of which we are made”, he says. Easter invites us to renounce anything that impedes new life from flourishing. The time is ripe for a “new imagination” allowing the “breath of the Spirit” to open new horizons before us. We urgently need to “discern and discover the Holy Spirit’s pulse” leading us to collaborate together to “channel the new life the Lord wants to generate in this concrete moment of history”, he notes. Only the Gospel and openness to the Spirit can inspire us with the “new imagination” necessary at this time. The Spirit calls us to work with Him. God’s Spirit neither allows Himself to be “closed or exploited by fixed or outdated methods”. Rather, the Spirit proposes that “we join His movement, capable of ‘making all things new’” (Rev 21:5).
Antibodies of solidarity
Quoting Global Pandemic and Universal Brotherhood: Note on the Covid-19 emergency, by the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis emphasizes that this pandemic needs to be treated with the “antibodies of solidarity”. “Each individual action”, he underlines, “is not an isolated one.” “For better or for worse” all of our actions affect others. Each person is a “protagonist” of history and can respond to the evils affecting millions world-wide. “It is not permissible that we write current and future history by turning our backs on the suffering of so many people”, he says.
To act as one
The challenge, Pope Francis points out is to “act as one people…to have a real impact”. This applies to the current epidemic and “other epidemics that beset us”. What are these other “epidemics”? Hunger, war, poverty, environmental devastation, the globalization of indifference. The wish the Pope expresses on concluding his reflection is that society might find “the necessary antibodies of justice, charity and solidarity. Let us not be afraid to live the alternative civilization of love”. It is a “civilization of hope”, he says confounding “anxiety and fear, sadness and fatigue”. This civilization, he explains, needs to be built daily, “uninterruptedly” and requires everyone’s commitment, a “committed community of brothers and sisters”.