This past week we celebrated the Solemnity of the Annunciation, a day where we should have been in Churches thanking God for the “good news” of having decided 2000 years ago to enter human history, through Mary, for the salvation of all. However, we were all confined in our homes, with spirits already down, only to be told the “not so good news” that the MCO will be extended till 14 Apr 2020. What do we do? How do we deal with this? Unthinkable!

For many Catholics, among the first few thoughts were, “Oh no! There’s no Holy Week and Easter this year!” Many of the things that have been happening to us these past weeks are termed ‘unprecedented’ and yet another one… no Holy Week and Easter celebrations in churches. Who would have thought just two months ago that we would come to this, especially with the most important liturgical celebrations in the Church… unthinkable!

During Jesus’ public ministry, many would consider the raising of Lazarus as the most unthinkable miracle simply because Jews traditionally believed that the soul of a dead person remained in the body only for three days and here comes Jesus on the fourth day. And so, bringing back to life Lazarus, who is already ‘four days dead’ and decaying is unthinkable!

When the news of Lazarus’ sickness reached Jesus, He was at the place called Bethabara and Bethany is just around 15 to 20 miles, i.e. a day’s journey. Jesus could have come immediately but the gospel tells us that after receiving the news, Jesus stayed there 2 more days before coming to meet them. Why? Did He not love Lazarus? Unthinkable!

It is through this unthinkable situation of raising Lazarus on the fourth day that Jesus is going to turn it into a moment of faith. He now presents Himself as ‘the resurrection and the life’ and puts the life-changing question to Martha, ‘Do you believe this?’. Martha was speaking of the afterlife but Jesus was going to demonstrate, that He can turn a situation of death into life – once again, the unthinkable.

Every day in the news we are confronted with news of the escalating deaths due to COVID-19. Heartbreakingly, people are dying right before the eyes of their loved ones because not only is there no cure but limited resources, even in developed countries.

In the midst of all that is happening around us, let us not lose our focus by mourning that there are no public celebrations of Holy Week and Easter while countless people are mourning the loss of their loved ones. This sense of loss is compounded by the fact that there isn’t a faith community that can come to console and lift them up in this moment of desolation due to social distancing. Perhaps we should be thinking, how can we still make the words of Jesus, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ real in the midst of this unthinkable chaos?

Though there may be no public Easter celebrations, the Paschal Mystery (Passion, Death, and Resurrection) is still very real – the core of our faith. There may not be the long liturgies to attend, but the Holy Week and Easter symbolisms will still accompany us in this dark period so that we can accompany others who are quickly losing hope in these trying times.

Now is not the time to live in a bubble and mourn the loss of Holy Week and Easter liturgies but, to dig deep into ourselves and draw strength from all the Holy Week and Easter liturgies that we have been a part of for so many years, and share it to a world crippled with anxiety and fear, chaos and despair, helpless and paralyzed.

With Martha and Mary, let us profess our belief that Jesus is truly ‘the Resurrection and the Life’ for He will surely “take the stone away” and lead us out of the “dark cave” that we find ourselves in now. This is not unthinkable but God’s promise made real through Jesus. ‘Do you believe?’

Fifth Sunday of Lent (29 Mar 2020)