While governments at all levels contemplate how to return to “normal” after the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis is preparing for its own own resurrection from quarantine.
He offered thoughts on the topic in a reflection that appeared on April 17, 2020, on the website of the Spanish-language periodical Vida Nueva. In the reflection, the Holy Father draws comparisons between the experience of people today during the pandemic and the resurrection of Jesus.
“Rejoice” is the first word spoken by the Risen Lord, the Pope pointed out, as reported in the Vatican News analysis of the reflection. He recalled that it was the word Jesus 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”.
Inviting the disciples going to Emmaus to rejoice would have been provoking, Pope Francis continues, according to Vatican News. 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”.
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”.
The comparison between the resurrection and the pandemic also surfaced in the Holy Father’s homily at Mass in Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican on April 13.
“God always begins with women, always,” Pope Francis asserted on the 13th. “They open ways. They don’t doubt: they know; they have seen Him; they have touched Him. They have also seen the empty sepulcher.
“It’s true that the disciples couldn’t believe it and said: ‘But these women, perhaps, are a little too imaginative’ . . . I don’t know; they had their doubts. However, they were sure and in the end, they pursued this path until today: Jesus is risen; He is alive among us (Cf. Matthew 28:9-10).”
The Holy Father in that homily continued by drawing a comparison to the decision the women made when confronted with the empty tomb and decisions coming in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The women proclaimed the truth. Others — the guards — accepted money to keep silent.
“Today also, in face of the coming — let’s hope it’s soon –the coming end of this pandemic, there is the same option: either our bet will be for life, for the resurrection of the peoples, or it will be for the god money: to return to the sepulcher of hunger, of slavery, of wars, of the arms factories, of children without education . . . the sepulcher is there.”
In his April 17 reflection, the Pope praises the efforts of the many people caring for the sick during the pandemic.
Many today are “carrying perfume” and “bringing the anointing” of “co-responsibility”, Francis said. 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 kept them from “doing what they felt they could and were obliged to do”.
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 said.
In an interview earlier this week, Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, outlined efforts the dicastery is taking in response to the pandemic and preparations for dealing with its aftermath.
“We have set up five working groups that are already at work. We have already had two working meetings with the Holy Father.,” Cardinal Turkson explained. “We have created a command center, to coordinate the initiatives meant to be enacted during the crisis and those that concern preparing for tomorrow. Ours is a service in terms of action and thought. We need concrete action now, and we are doing it.
“We need to look beyond today, to chart the course for the difficult journey that awaits us. If we do not think about tomorrow, we will find ourselves unprepared once again. Taking action today and thinking about tomorrow are not alternatives…Our team has already begun to collaborate with the Secretariat of State, the Dicastery for Communications, Caritas Internationalis, the Pontifical Academies of Science and Life, the Office of Papal Charities, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Vatican Pharmacy. We have created a somewhat new mode of collaboration between our team and the various Dicasteries and offices of the Holy See: a task force mode. An agile collaboration that bears witness to the unity and the ability of the Church to react.”