By Father Joseph Sia
Over the past few days, when I would wake up in the morning I would ask myself, “Is it over? Can we go back to doing the things we used to do?” Or sometimes I would pinch myself, hoping I would wake up from this nightmare and walk out into a world where there was no such thing as a novel coronavirus. Unfortunately, the bottom line is that we are still living in a pandemic, and nobody knows for sure when things will go “back to normal” or, for that matter, if things will ever go back to the way they were.
Perhaps a good question to ask during this time is, “How do I live out my vocation during a pandemic?” Whether we are married, single, a priest or a religious sister or brother, I believe this Easter season gives us some good opportunities to reflect on this question. Jesus’ resurrection was a phenomenon that his apostles and followers had never experienced before, just like the pandemic is something we have never experienced before.
After Jesus had resurrected and manifested himself to his apostles and followers, they did not know how to react to what was unfolding in front of their eyes. None of them had previously witnessed someone being tortured and crucified, die and be buried, and then rise from the dead and look so radiant and amazing as Jesus did.
The two men on the road to Emmaus simply thought that they were walking with a stranger. Mary Magdalene thought she was talking to a gardener. Thomas wanted to be able to put his hands into Jesus’ wounds and side as proof. What brought them to believe were Jesus’ words of comfort and peace and reassurances that indeed it was him, and that all this was in fulfillment of God’s plan for his only Son. After opening themselves to accept this revelation, they were so moved and inspired that they became empowered to share the Good News with others and live their lives in relation to an all-powerful, living God.
Our experience of the pandemic is one that brings us face to face with a reality that is so much bigger than ourselves. Perhaps we are also reacting with incredulity just as the followers of Jesus did. As the weeks drag on, it is possible that we fall into despair because it seems that the tunnel is long and dark and we still can’t see the light at the end of it. It is like we are entombed and groping aimlessly in the dark as we figure things out. Of course, it does not help that more and more people, even our own family members and friends and perhaps even ourselves, are getting exposed and infected.
What can we do? Let us turn to the Risen Christ and allow him to comfort and strengthen us as he reveals to us his love and mercy as he did to his followers on the road to Emmaus, in the garden of the Resurrection, and in the Upper Room. Let us be reminded that even from the darkest moments can come the most powerful manifestations of God’s glory.
Maybe for a while it might seem like death (or a virus) can win, but we know that the story does not end there. We who are one with Jesus’ body through our baptism have already died with Christ; let us live our lives now in acceptance of the life-giving water and blood that flowed from our Savior.
When we have this courage and conviction, then we will continue to seek God’s will in whatever vocation he has given us. We might even become better spouses, priests, religious or single persons because we are already conquering our fears and relying on our strength to come from the God whom we adore. Let us be emboldened by God’s Spirit to evangelize and make disciples. Let us not be afraid to be holy, even during a pandemic.
(Father Sia is vocations director for the Davenport Diocese. Contact him at (563) 888-4255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)