Celebrating Easter in the shadow of COVID-19
These are troubled times for the whole world. The world is battling with the Coronavirus pandemic. The World Health Organisation writes of this virus thus: “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.” Covid-19 has killed thousands of persons globally.
As at 6.33 pm on March 31, 2020, the Worldometers website states that there have been 803,180 cases and 39,033 deaths in the world. Many countries have closed their borders and completely shut down to combat the pandemic. Many have run short of hospitals beds to treat those affected. Outside the physical and material destructions that the pandemic has caused, there is fear and panic in many places. Not only is there fear and panic, but this fear has also killed some and paralysed many others. These are desperate and grave times everywhere. Hopelessness has settled into many persons and homes. There is despair in many quarters.
This pandemic has come at a time when Christians and many others have celebrated lent and are celebrating the festival of Easter, to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus from the grave and the land of the dead. I recognise with Malcolm Muggeridge in “Jesus: The Man Who Lives” that; “The coming of Jesus into the world is the most stupendous event in human history. I say this as a Christian, recognising, of course, that the coming into the world of a Mohammed or a Buddha must seem, in the eyes of a Muslim or Buddhist, of equal or even greater significance.”
Thinking of Jesus and the Easter story, one cannot but relate them to this Covid-19 crisis that the world is passing through now. On Good Friday when Jesus died on the cross his followers left the scene broken and in utter despair. Their world and dreams collapsed. The two disciples that Jesus met on the way to Emmaus are a microcosm of the entire followers of Jesus. In Luke 24:21 they say to Jesus: “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all these, it is now the third day since this happened.” Having their hopes and dreams shattered they were returning home in disappointment and frustration. At the conclusion of their encounter with the risen Christ at the breaking of bread, they have been revivified, reenergised, and transformed. They returned back to Jerusalem testifying that Jesus had truly risen. The dark shadow of Good Friday gives way to the glorious dawn of Easter.
At such a time like this, the Christian story of Easter offers hope, resurgence, resilience, and restoration. It is significant that Easter occurs in spring, the coming of new life to the earth. As the world passes through this darkness and shadow of Covid-19, there is a crucial need to encourage people to hope and not to give up. It was Winston Churchill who at the height of World War II said to his countrymen and women, “Never, Never Give Up.” That inspired them to win the war. The spiritual song, “We shall overcome” was a great inspiration to African Americans in their struggle for equal rights and justice. African Americans were equally spurred on by the liberation story of the Judeo-Christian tradition running from the Old Testament prophets through Jesus and onward. These are times when the world needs to hang on to hope more than ever before. Hope is what the Easter story speaks about among other things. Good Friday is not the end. There is a resurrection coming out of the ashes of what Coronavirus has destroyed. The followers of Christ came alive after his resurrection. The world is not going to crumble or collapse in this time of Coronavirus. While it is true that many people have died, it is equally true that many people have survived the onslaught of the virus. Many more will survive. There is hope that a vaccine or a cure will be discovered to combat this pandemic. The thousands of men and women especially health care workers and scientists at the frontlines of the battle against Coronavirus are people grounded in hope, the hope that conquers fear, the hope that is rooted in courage.
The Easter story speaks of hope, not despair. It speaks of the courage to face a new day. Since Jesus rose from the dead, humanity is rising to conquer this Coronavirus, every other virus and disease. The resurrection has been interpreted differently by various scholars. This piece affirms the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That resurrection turned a group of devastated followers into harbingers of hope who travelled far and wide to spread his gospel of peace and love. The story of Jesus did not end on Good Friday. God vindicated him. I align with the remarkable words of Muggeridge who again states lucidly: “Jesus himself, though he has died, will live on in the world; not just through his followers and his teachings as other great spirits have, but as a person. Socrates was a wise and noble man, but no one has found in him posthumously a day-to-day friend and companion on whose behalf lives of outstanding love and dedication have been lived...What is unique about Jesus is that, on the testimony and in the experience of innumerable people, of all sorts and conditions, of all races and nationalities, from the simplest and most primitive to the most sophisticated and cultivated, he remains alive.” In the same place cited, Muggeridge writes further that: “The Resurrection is not just something that happened; it goes on happening as spring goes on coming. It is the indestructible hope that has sustained Christians through the harlequinade of history.” That abiding hope can sustain us in these difficult times as we battle the Coronavirus. Coronavirus does not have the final say. Humans especially our noble scientists must continue to labour until a cure is found to this deadly and demonic disease. So help us, God.
Ikeke, a priest of Catholic Diocese of Warri an Associate Professor of Philosophy, Delta State University, Abraka.
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