As we journey through probably the strangest Holy Week most of us will experience, we wanted to send a note of reflection and hope to our MVP family. Like many of you, the past few weeks have blurred together as we adjust to a new rhythm of working from home and try to fill free time with walks and calls to friends and family. We are still unsure how we feel about this “new normal”!
In El Salvador, things are similar to what most of us are experiencing here in the US. Schools have been closed for several weeks, and there is a stay at home order, but with much more brutal consequences for those who risk a trip to the grocery store than most of us are seeing. There have been videos and posts of civilians stopped by police while returning from the store, only to be abused verbally and physically. One video showed the police forcing a young man to pour all the drinks he had just bought out onto the street as he repeated “I will not leave my home during quarantine, I will not leave my home during quarantine.” The current president is taking extreme measures through an executive exception rule that was put in place several weeks back due to the crisis. Unfortunately, his actions are being reviewed internationally and are leading some to fear that political unrest is in the near future (learn more here.) And while homicides have decreased, gang violence continues in its own fashion (see this article to read more). To date there are 117 known cases of Covid-19 in El Salvador, which have caused 6 deaths in a country with a population of about 6 million.
We wanted to give you a brief update, because like most of our world, they continue to need your prayers. So as you pray for our world, remember the students of El Salvador, who are no longer receiving food and social interaction from school. Pray against domestic violence and gang violence during this time. Pray for our MVP volunteers, many who are facing food insecurity and fear. Thank you for being part of our MVP family.
Like most of you, we are tired of reading news and having conversations about this virus. And so now, we would like to shift over to a short reflection on this Holy Week.
Perhaps many of you are feeling some darkness during this time – we mourn not being able to share in the long-time traditions that make this week one of significant remembrance and celebration. We did not gather for a Palm Sunday procession, we will not walk through the Stations of the Cross, we will not read and sing together as we remember Good Friday, and we will not dress up to join together in our worship places to celebrate the joy of Easter morning. Some of us miss the music and corporate singing; others miss communion; most of us miss the hugs and human touch when greeting our faith family throughout this week.
As I reflected on this Holy Week, I began to consider how each day between Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday over 2000 years ago speaks to our experience of Holy Week this year.
On Thursday, the disciples gathered together for a traditional meal, one that they had celebrated together in previous years. While there was more tension around this Passover meal than usual, the disciples still gathered together. There was joy and deep connection as they communed together over a meal, as Jesus washed their feet, as they shared the bread and cup that we now celebrate as Communion. There was community, and there was connection at the table.
On Friday, their worlds were turned upside down. Denial, fear, hiding, sadness, death. The loss that Jesus’ friends must have felt that Friday is still unimaginable to me. The darkness they must have felt surrounding them, the fear, the hopelessness – this Friday was a day of deep, deep loss and mourning. As Luke tells us in chapter 23, “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining.” Darkness at midday. Darkness that seeps into the deepest crevices of our beings. Darkness that can be explained only as deep deep loss.
We don’t have much information about what happened on Saturday. We know that it was Sabbath, a day of rest. And yet we can imagine what that day must have been like for the disciples. Huddled in a small room, with many tears and muffled cries. Most probably didn’t sleep all night, and I can imagine that their exhaustion combined with the overwhelming emotions left them feeling distant and empty, as if their bodies were disconnected from their spirits, unable to fully feel and express all the pain they were carrying. It must have been a long day. A day of waiting. A day of fear – they had lost their leader, the man who had become their whole lives. And his death by crucifixion left them wondering if their association now put them at risk for the same fate. A day of waiting in exhaustion, loss, and fear. All they could do was hold the hands of their friends as they each fought their own internal battles. And with nothing else to do that Saturday, they waited.
And Sunday – we now know the great hope and joy that Sunday brought! But of course as the sun rose on that sad Sunday morning, the disciples didn’t know the rest of the story. They couldn’t read ahead to know the end of the story. Of course Jesus had predicted his resurrection, but after the trauma of watching their friend and leader be arrested, humiliated, and killed, who could really believe that Jesus would walk among them again? When the disciples heard the miracle that Jesus was alive, I’m not sure they all jumped up and ran out into the streets with unquestionable faith and joy. This was big news – but they still felt tangled in all they had lived the past few days. For some, it may have been easier to dig through their emotions and find a space in the darkness to let in the light of hope and belief. But others may have remained paralyzed for hours, perhaps days, still struggling with the internal battle of emotions that arise with such great loss. They may not have been ready to step outside the dark room that allowed them to sit with their sadness and doubts. While they watched the tears of their friends turn from sadness to joy, this process of transformation looked different for each one. After all, it took Thomas over a week to untangle his doubt and grief so that he could truly accept the good news that Jesus was alive. Today we celebrate Resurrection Sunday with great joy and confidence! And while the disciples’ Sunday morning was one of mixed emotions and slow unraveling, we celebrate this day with a firm hope that comes only from our faith in the miracle of the resurrection.
As we reflect on our own experience of Holy Week this year, may we be reminded and encouraged that our own paths are not all that far from the disciples’. We gather and commune, not always in the way we expected, but we find ways to make meaningful human connection with our friends and family in the presence of Jesus. The global church, a family of faith that extends beyond our consciousness, will all celebrate this week with new ways of gathering and communing. May we be encouraged as we remember those around the world who find ways to connect and celebrate this week, despite the virus that threatens our usual traditions. May we commune through the hope that God is with us in times of darkness and light.
We all have experienced loss during this season – we have lost loved ones, jobs, plans, security, hope. This loss can feel profoundly deep at times, as we sit in our homes disconnected from the world. And while we may think, How can I compare my loss or suffering to that of the disciples on Good Friday?, may we remember that loss should not be compared. Each loss is unique, and each person’s experience of loss is unique. May we be gracious with ourselves and with others as we feel the darkness around us and mourn our losses.
For me, I think I have been living most like it’s Saturday. Waiting. Entangled in emotions. Tired and worn. Doubting and fearful. Holding hands with family but still feeling disconnected and isolated. Unsure about the future, and unsure how much longer we will wait. But because there is nothing else to do, we sit with our loss and our doubts, and we continue to wait.
Then finally come Sunday – oh how we long for the joy that Mary found at the tomb to fill us this Easter Sunday. To find such hope that releases us from the loss and fear to fully embrace the joy of life and the hope of resurrection. But as we consider our celebrations this Sunday, let us remember the varied reactions of Jesus’ closest friends on that first Sunday, and allow ourselves and our communities to make space for the myriad of reactions we will experience this Easter. We want so badly to embrace the joy that Jesus is alive and to be overwhelmed by hope, but we need to untangle a lot of loss, fear, and doubt first. We might not be ready this Sunday, and that is ok. Together we will journey towards the empty tomb, at our own pace, yet with the confidence that we walk with a great community of faith.
And so as we celebrate the resurrection once again, let us be mindful of our own journeys. Let us embrace the full experience of the disciples that first Holy Week. And let us be patient as we live between Saturday’s waiting and Sunday’s hope. May we find strength to hold all of Thursday’s communion, Friday’s loss, and Saturday’s waiting even as we move into Sunday’s light that fills us with hope of the resurrection. A hope that inspires us towards peace. A hope that inspires us towards love. A hope that inspires us to embrace our risen Savior.
May you have a blessed Easter Sunday.
With love and hope,
Molly & Eliberto