The painful grace of the coronavirus crisis

Published on 08 Apr 2020
Sunset, an olive tree
All times are grace-filled. The same goes for the coronavirus crisis as well, writes Nikolaas Sintobin SJ. God has not turned off the ‘tap’ of his grace. What particular grace might He grant us during this Holy Week?

The Holy Week celebrations are all joyful. We love these carefully developed liturgies. They bring Christians together in deep communion. Over the centuries, they have been polished and enriched with symbols, songs and gestures. They can make us forget that the first Holy Week of Jesus and his disciples was very different. It was largely an experience of fear, loneliness, stress, violence, betrayal, disillusionment, unbelief and perdition for Jesus as well as for his disciples. It is unlikely that they consciously experienced these moments as a time of grace. To think that these terrible events would later be commemorated and celebrated would have seemed scandalous.

No Hallelujahs

The same is true for Easter and the days after. This year, in many of our churches, no hallelujah will ring out. Nor was this the case on the day when the Lord rose from the dead. The accounts of gospel appearances are a clear reminder of the pain and despair of a community that had collapsed. Think, for example, of the disciples of Emmaus. Each time, it is the risen Jesus himself who takes the initiative to go and see his fear-filled friends. It is the Man-God Jesus, with the wounds of his martyrdom still visible in his body, who comes to meet his disciples to console them and strengthen them in their shaky faith.

The grace of living Holy Week

Could it be that this is a special grace that is now being offered to us too? The grace of living Holy Week more as Jesus and his disciples lived it themselves? In this way, our own isolation, fear and insecurity can become a doorway to gain more access to the heart of the experience of Jesus; the only one on whom I can truly base my existence is God the Father. It is He who gives life, beyond the limits of death. For better or for worse.

The traces of his love

Do I believe in this? To what extent do I, in my turn, dare to surrender myself to Him? What helps me to do this? What takes me away from Him? Where can I spot the traces of His love these days? How do these days help me to separate the wheat from the chaff in my life?

If we are given to truly welcome this grace, this year our hallelujah will come from the inner depths of ourselves.

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