Easter is a time of celebration and fresh beginnings. In the northern hemisphere spring is taking hold: trees and plants are waking up and in the countryside animals are producing their young. We all give a sigh of relief that winter has lost its power, giving occasional blasts as summer draws closer.
At Easter, Christians are celebrating a very special fresh beginning as we look again at the remarkable story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ: we are reminded yet again that from pain, betrayal, hopelessness and death can emerge new things that we did not imagine possible. Life after the resurrection for the followers of Jesus was very different from life before. They were given a fresh vision. Their lives were changed, as some travelled from their land of Galilee to places they had never heard of, while others discovered they had gifts and talents they didn’t know they had. Resurrection means being open to life which is different and richer than before – not as it has been in the past.
While nature is reminding us of fresh beginnings, this Easter does not feel too much like a time of celebration. Each day the number of deaths from Covid 19 are increasing and we are told that we are still two weeks away from the peak. People are dying in hospitals away from their loved ones and can only be laid to rest surrounded by a few family members. Much of society is shut down. Many have lost their jobs or substantial amounts of their income. The world economy is looking precarious. Yet there is another side to all of this.
We are seeing people’s deep concern for others coming to the surface. It was moving to hear of a deputy head-teacher walking 5 miles each day to deliver school meals to 80 pupils in receipt of free school dinners. Communities are putting themselves out to ensure that the most vulnerable are being looked after. Many people, including NHS and care-home workers, people delivering essential services such as in shops, mail delivery, and refuse collection, are continuing to work despite the danger of contracting the virus.
We are discovering new ways of communicating. We are noticing the environment is less polluted – there are even dolphins in the lagoons of Venice. We are learning to say thank you more frequently, not only in the Thursday night clap-for-carers event, but in appreciating those who put themselves out for us. We are realising it is possible to live in different, more healthy, ways.
While we may not be able to celebrate this Easter as we would like, perhaps we could hold on to the message of the resurrection and, when all this is over, ask ourselves whether there are things that can be done differently so that life is richer. If we simply rush to ‘get back to normal’, then we will be missing an opportunity. We could make a note of the positive changes that have taken place at this difficult time, of how we may have enjoyed doing things differently, of how society appears to have become a more caring place. Then, as we settle back to old routines, we can ask ourselves how we can integrate these changes into our lives and society.
Bishop Brian Castle