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“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14
What can I say? This has been the most remarkable Lent that I can remember. I can recall stories told to me by people with longer memories, who as children in England in the Second World War, were evacuated to the country during times when the cities were being bombed from the air. They had to leave the comfort of their own homes and take up residence with strangers in unfamiliar surroundings. I’m sure that such an experience would have seemed surreal in many ways. These children didn’t know when they would see their families or be back in their homes. Circumstances forced them to become aliens in their own world.
As I write this, we are approaching the Fifth Sunday in Lent. Holy Week and Easter are just around the corner. We should be planning to engage the solemnities of Holy Week and to celebrate the great Paschal (Easter) feast together. However, our fasting as been greatly altered, and our feasting is on hold this year. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down. We don’t know when we will be able to gather again. We have had to evacuate, in a manner of speaking. Rather than becoming aliens in our own world, our world has become alien to us, and we are being told to stay home, rather than leave.
Our experience of Easter and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, is framed against the experience of the Passover when the people of God were told to stay in their homes to be protected from the horrible plague that was unleashed on Egypt. That experience was the beginning of the end of Israel’s captivity in Egypt. The Exodus that followed transformed God’s people and prepared them for the Promised Land.
There is a lot of uncertainty as to what awaits us after this pandemic passes over; a lot of questions about what life will look like on the other side. Through it all, one thing remains certain: God has promised to go with us and to go ahead of us to prepare the way. Perhaps we will be freed from our own captivities. Perhaps we will be transformed so that we can fully live in God’s promise.
In Jesus, we recognize “God with Us” and in the events of the Paschal Mystery, the Great Feast of Easter, we live in that hope, and the hope of God who goes before us. We are people of the Resurrection and People of Hope. We are the People of God who live in the promise that he is with us and goes before us in all things… including pandemics.
Photo Credit: Noel Wygiera. Journey's end for Moses. View from Mt. Nebo looking west across the Jordan Valley.