On Good Friday we recall the sufferings and death of Jesus, while knowing full well that we will celebrate the Resurrection on Sunday. We believe Jesus died to the life he knew among us as a human like ourselves, and rose to a full and unlimited life, the life we are destined for in the providence of our Creator God. We cannot know our new life without first dying to the life we know now.
It seems to be the nature of creation that out of death comes new life. We see it all around us. This is true for each of us as we grow and mature, letting go of old habits and ways of thinking, and taking on new ones. As a consequence of the coronavirus, we are seeing suffering and death in the institutions we have become very familiar with – economy, government, church. We will have to do some serious rethinking of our priorities and ways of doing things. No doubt this will be true especially in the way we are church. The old ways do not seem to be working anymore. Many have sensed this already and have been working to effect some changes in how we think and act. The crisis is providing impetus to all this.
The crisis is showing how for many of us religion is a spectator sport. In the Roman Catholic version of Christianity, we have become intent on watching masses on tv and internet because our churches are closed. The idea of “virtual participation” is with us, and probably needs to be studied, along with many other notions. We have become inured to simply watching more or less passively, even during mass in church, while a man says the prayers, does the preaching, dispenses the communion. A spectator sport.
If we are willing to take the chance, we can see this in our own life as well. We might ask ourselves how or even if, we are willing to grow, which can be an unsettling experience that doesn’t get any easier no matter our age in years. There are many times when the old answers do not fit the new questions, and what worked in the past does not work now. This is something we have to face in our own life and in the church’s life.
The basic responsibility of someone who is serious in following Jesus is to be open to the Spirit who leads us to suffering, death, and resurrection, to conversion and growth in our daily living, in other words, how we live with other people. It has little to do with just doing holy things, or watching while somebody else does them. We are learning Jesus is not apart from our daily living, but a part of it, if we are willing to take the chance and trust.
Many us us like to have nice ideas and words to describe who Jesus, God, etc, is for us, but unless these have an impact on how we live everyday with the folks in our life, they are just something else to be a barrier between ourselves and Jesus, some feel good stuff that we hold on to to make ourselves feel safe, but which also keep us from growing.
I’ve always been amazed, and disturbed, at how folks keep saying that, because I am a priest, I have an in with “the Man upstairs”. I know that is not true, but many folks really believe it. I’ve had many (often very scary) experiences that showed me I am not special in any way, but have a responsibility to and for others in my life. The current crisis is among these events. While I can live-stream a mass on CCTV for the residents where I live, that does not make me special. It just reminds me of my own responsibilities and my need for conversion and growth, in other words, sufferings, death, resurrection. Each of us in our own way has an “in” with God. Jesus showed us God is among us in everybody, and we don’t need a go between. God creates us and loves us as we are, and most of us can’t get our heads around that. This leads us to experience we are with each other and need each other.
There is no rising to new life without dying to the life that was before. In some ways the church is going to change. It could well be that what is coming will be something we wouldn’t recognize from where we are right now. No doubt there will be many who want to go back to the way things were before the crisis. The same is true in our own life. Do we just want the way things were, or are we willing to change, to grow, to be completely open to the Spirit leading us through our suffering and death to our own resurrection?