Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. - John 19:25 (NRSV)
Most COVID-19 deaths haven’t been good deaths in that way we hope death will be: comforted by family, eased by sedatives, soft music playing in the room. They’ve been isolated in ICUs, stacked in chaotic corridors, hidden in nursing homes where no one noticed for days.
This isn’t to say that doctors and nurses haven’t been heroic, risking their own lives to render beautiful care. It’s only to say that what’s come upon us is a genuine horror.
Most of us don’t work in overwhelmed hospitals and makeshift morgues. We’re not digging anonymous graves. We’re shielded from these awful scenes.
And why would we want to dwell on them, anyway? Aren’t we an Easter people? Don’t we specialize in hope, in divine silver linings, in life in the midst of death?
Yes, and we’re right always to insist on hope. But maybe not so reflexively, maybe not so fast. For there are times when we’d do better to stay longer at the cross, to stand still there absorbing the pain for a while before we proclaim the Easter joy.
Faith isn’t faith if it marches us straight to glory without passing despair. If it notices the statistics but not the deaths. If it gets Jesus off the cross and into glory with unseemly haste. Our piety must never separate us from our humanity. If we are too quick to say, “All will be well,” we make faith incredible.
Christians live in the midst of two realities – unrelenting pain and a joy no circumstance can alter. Faith never evades that pain to proclaim that joy.
Jesus, keep us near your cross, even as we announce in hope the death of death in your glorious resurrection.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.