There are two phrases from the Roman Ritual for Funerals that are so rich and meaningful for me:
The first, The ties that bind us together in life do not unravel with death … and
Second, Life is changed — not ended.
Life continues after death through resurrection. The resurrected life is different than the earthly life. At death – life does not end — it changes.
Our memories and the love that has joined us with those who died, are not forgotten, with death.
While some people wonder if these are apocalyptic times — most people do not believe this is the end time. While we are living through an event unlike any other we have experience, we believe that this will end — and we will return to activities and schedule we follow most of the time.
Clearly life is changing and changing and changing. But there does not seem to be reason or fear to believe that it is ending.
What I have seen with my own eyes —
As I take time for walks (most days) in the neighborhood around my home, I see people that I had no idea lived in the neighborhood. I see young couples pushing strollers with their kids or riding bikes. I see people I have not talked with in awhile — and the walk gets interrupted for a visit —- of course, with appropriate physical-distancing —- I see beautiful yards that I so often breeze by in my car.
I see fellow Senior Citizens taking time to grocery shop during special hours reserved on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for — older folks. Most have gloves and some form of facial covering.
I have had two Telehealth visits with doctors — and don’t feel my health has been compromised.
More time is spent on checking in with people on the phone — physical distancing does not have to mean social distancing.
AND — people sure have more time for Facebook these days. I see families engaging in game playing for which they would not normally have time. I hear family sing-alongs and costume contests. Beginning with Italy and spreading to other nations and to New York, people gather on balconies to sing, to play musical instruments, to pour wine from one floor to the floor below.
Schools are closed in 180 nations of the world. 1.5 billion students (87% of the children of the world) are not in school. In-person instruction has been interrupted –perhaps like never before.
Millions of people have lost their jobs —- long lines form at food banks.
Amazing stories are told of huge generosity — people paying the rent for those they do not know.
With people staying at home, less car traffic, fewer air flights, closed factories — air quality has improved around the world. The Himalaya Mountains are visible for the first time in years. LA, Chicago, and other major cities report improved air quality — an unexpected positive from this crisis.
States cooperating to share Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for medical personnel in states lacking the necessary safety gear — kinda’ like the early believers who devoted themselves to the communal life (Acts of the Apostles). So often I have read and preached that Scripture with a certain sense of disbelief — a nice ideal, but not very realistic. And yet, in so many ways, we are seeing happen — even if it just someone calling on a neighbor to see if they need something from the grocery store.
I have heard people talk about how grateful for what they have — and how much they realize how little they need. People talk about the pain of not being able to see loved ones in a nursing home or hospital. Grandparents miss seeing their children and grandchildren.
We all have a sense of what is important and what is not important.
Thomas did not come to faith — he did not believe — until he saw Jesus for himself — until he saw the wounds of Jesus. Perhaps that was the moment life really changed for Thomas.
In the first letter to Peter, we are reminded that “for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor of the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
After the “lentiest of Lents ever” — and one of the strangest of Easter’s ever — we say in faith, there is “something being this moment.” There is something yet to be revealed — we don’t know exactly what it is — but there is something out there. We will not live under “stay at home” orders forever. We will return to days when there is plenty of toilet paper and all the bacterial spray we want will be on our store shelves again.
How much life will be changed — how much we will be different — is yet to be seen.
Will we be more grateful? Will we be able to do with less so that others will have more? Will we appreciate the presence of our loved ones — and the chance to be closer together than six feet?
In time we will see — in time we will know. For a little while longer, it appears we will have the time to ponder.
Blest are we who have not yet seen what will be — but who believe in Jesus and his powerful presence. He is the vaccine against fear.