Holy Week in the COVID-19 Era
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and Our friends and neighbors in other Faith Communities:
Christians are in the midst of the holiest and longest week of the year: Holy Week is an Octave - 8 days from Palm/Passion Sunday through Easter.
Normally I would be hearing confessions on Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday, after having observed Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and then reading the Passion Narrative (this year from Matthew's Gospel). But there is nothing "normal" about this Holy Week. The powers of darkness (sin, evil) that Jesus came to overthrow, seem to have gathered strength to shut down all gatherings of the faithful this year.
People of faith are clearly not immune from any of the realities of viruses, disappointment, depression, disease and, ultimately, death itself, which infect our earthly home. Jesus calls us to be "wise as serpents and gentle as doves". Such wisdom tells us (based on medical recommendations in the novel covid 19 era) that we should "socially distance" ourselves from one another. Such distancing can lead to isolation, sadness and feelings of loss. Jesus knew such isolation and sadness. On the night before His crucifixion He prayed to His Father, and ours, that He might escape this suffering and loss. But He submitted to the Father's will and offered Himself on the Cross, to pay the price for all the dis-eases of this world, on Good Friday.
Our Jewish brothers and sisters are observing their holy festival of freedom, Passover, this week. At the end of the Seder meal in the home, the jubilant cry of hope is given: "Next year in Jerusalem! Next year may all be free!".
Christians celebrate that freedom, from all that ails our human family, in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on Easter. Our jubilant cry of hope is "He is risen! He is risen indeed!" Life and love overcome even death itself!
In such hope and confident faith, we pray that next year (and much sooner!) we may all be able to gather in our churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and homes and, with our immediate and extended families, celebrate God's good gifts! Next year
may all be free!
Paul Messner, Pastor
Otsego County Lutheran Parish