Few would have foreseen, as we packed into pews on Ash Wednesday, the Lent we had in store: that our fast would become an involuntary one from the Living Bread, that our almsgiving would feature social distancing from those in need, and that our prayer would occur mostly in the domestic church and in cyberspace.
This year we have all been led into the desert, separated from the distractions of sports, late-night shows, parties, outside commitments, even face-to-face contact with friends, neighbors and extended family.
We have all had an extended Lenten meditation on death, on how we are dust and unto dust will return, not knowing the day or the hour when the earthly end will come.
It’s a Lent that we will never forget.
But if Lent is meant to prepare us for Easter — not just what Easter symbolizes, but the death-and-life reality it effects — then perhaps this Lent might prove to be, for all its vicissitudes and sufferings, one of the most spiritually fruitful of our lives.
What Christians celebrate on Easter is far more than a liturgical rite. It’s more than the commemoration of something that happened one early Sunday morning. It is the most consequential event in the history of the world. It is the triumph of resurrection over crucifixion, life over death, light over darkness, love over hatred, faith over fear. And regardless of the current circumstances, the power of Christ’s victory remains.
It will be a huge disappointment — for priests and faithful alike — if we are not able to celebrate this victory together in packed churches and enter sacramentally into the passion, death and resurrection we commemorate and proclaim. But even if we are not able to celebrate Easter together liturgically, even if we are not able to receive Jesus’ risen Body and Blood in Holy Communion, even if we are not able to welcome into the Church as scheduled the new Catholics who through baptism are preparing to enter into Jesus’ death and resurrection, the power of what we memorialize on Easter is real.
And it should impact our lives just as it impacted Mary Magdalene in the Garden, the 10 apostles cowering in the Upper Room, the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, doubting Thomas before Jesus’ wounds, and Saul of Tarsus outside the gates of Damascus.
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