Rituals, togetherness and routine. These were among the first things that went missing when we fell victim to Covid-19.
We were different without them, and rightly so, for they are the cultural markers that give identity and security in any society. Stripped from us, we suddenly realised how much we needed them.
We were ‘Locked Down’ when Easter arrived. Having to stay at home meant the cancellation of any community gathering, social or religious. For people of faith, it felt as though the stone had not been rolled away. Like the disciples behind locked doors, we were uncertain, anxious. So much had changed, so quickly.
Now, more than a month on, we approach Pentecost. Perhaps we’re under less pressure. But maybe not. Our isolation from one another was a means of defense against a killer virus, and the ‘social distancing’ has hurt. But have we learnt anything from this? Will the kindness shown one another during the siege continue? Will the world be more united after the scare that bonded everyone has departed?
The Easter season, climaxing with Pentecost, gifts the followers of Jesus with ever increasing hope, and confidence in the presence of Jesus, preparing them to embrace anew their commitment to his way of life.
This year, the timing of Pentecost, recognised as the birthday of the Church, coincides with a greater easing of restrictions due to Covid-19. We can celebrate this ‘new beginning’ with a fresh perspective. Having experienced the poverty of isolation and disharmony, we can better appreciate the Pentecost gift of unity and togetherness.
The scriptures provide beautiful images to help us.
The Holy Spirit comes as a powerful wind, bringing strength, courage and understanding (Acts 2:1-11). The breath of Jesus gifted the Spirit as healer and reconciler, bonding the disciples with his own joyful peace (John 20:19-23).
The wind that carried Covid-19 brought sickness and death to populations worldwide. So did our breath, as we coughed and sneezed the virus into the air.
The images are stark and the choice is clear. While bringing illness, sorrow and grief, Covid-19 has also shown the importance of kindness and compassion and the abhorrence of isolation. The first Christians witnessed this in their way of life and breathed a life of joy and peace into their environment. Surely, we now have an added incentive to do the same.
A theme Pope Francis constantly returns to stresses our interconnectedness, that we are indeed one people sharing a common earth.
His words to Muslims, Jews and Christians, pointing to Abraham, our common ancestor, our ‘father in faith’, are also words for the whole world. Perhaps now that Covid-19 has exposed our vulnerability, all are ready to listen:
‘May we respect and love one another as brothers and sisters. May we learn to understand the sufferings of others. May no one abuse the name of God through violence. May we work together for justice and peace.’ [Pope Francis’ pilgrimage to the Holy Land, 24–26 May, 2014.]
In a parable about the reign of God, a farmer, when told that weeds had been sown among the wheat, said, ‘An enemy has done this!’ [Matthew 13:28]. Covid-19 is our enemy, sowing separation. But, if it opens our eyes to the oneness that threads us together as the people of Earth, it will have been a blessing.
The winds of Pentecost continue to blow, dispelling fear, but disturbing our comfort, encouraging, but also urging us to grow our potential to work together for the good of all. To breathe life.