The Passion of Christ we hear this Sunday is not unlike the experience of many who have been infected and died of Covid-19 and those that mourn their loss. It is a difficult reality to comprehend. Just yesterday I was healthy and today I am fighting for my life, we hear so many say. It is the same shift in emotion as the Gospel of Matthew at the beginning of the Palm Sunday liturgy. There are shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest.” The crowd is full of joy and seconds later they say, “Crucify him, crucify him.” Very unsettling and yet very real.
The human condition, often, catches us off guard. Michelle Franci-Donnay, talks about how unsettling the whole reality must have been for those who were closest to Jesus. “Seeing signs that suggested things were not as they had been, or should be, but not knowing quite what they meant and how it would all come out.” Those with the virus and their families are in the midst of that same reality. Families that love their grandparents, parents, children cannot comfort them. They cannot walk closely with them as they suffer. They can’t say good-bye. They are left feeling empty and cold. The unknown is maddening! The struggle, the betrayal, the suffering, and the death of Christ was intense last year and will be more intense this year. I think all of us will celebrate the Triduum with a sense of caution. We will celebrate the Triduum with eyes wide open and ears amplified hoping we don’t miss the grace of this moment. Hoping we are nearing the end of this liminal time.
Donnay continues with this question. “Can I listen to the passion this year, truly present to its reality without mentally racing ahead to the ending?” All of us affected by the virus, but especially the patients, families, doctors, nurses, first responders, cannot race to the end because we don’t know where the end is. There are so many uncertainties.
As we unite our voices and pray for and with those who suffer, let us not forget that Jesus’ sorrow did not end in the grave and neither will ours! The grief will be lifted, and joy will return. We will dance and sing once more! New life will come! The memory of this Easter, however, will live far beyond us. And just as the youngest child in the Jewish household asks: Why is this night different than all other nights? We will ask, Why was this Easter different than all other Easters?