Every year, the Church’s Holy Week is solemn. But never more so in living memory than this year. Two weeks ago, Pope Francis captured the growing world atmosphere when he said: “Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void... We find ourselves afraid and lost.”
We won’t be gathering in numbers in churches. We won’t be carrying the Cross in procession. We won’t be together to light candles from the Easter candle. Instead, many will be at home cocooned, others self-isolating, all of us social distancing.
But, no matter what our situation, we need not live remote from others. If anything, we have time to delve deeper and identify spiritually, in prayer and thought with others. As well as remembering all those in the healthcare and essential services, I propose we think also this Easter of the following.
We think of those the Coronavirus has hit directly. Over one hundred have now died, many are struggling for life, and we know that thousands more are infected.
All the indications also, very worryingly, that we are entering the peak period here in Ireland. Statistics at a level none of us here have heard before of people dying in specific circumstances will blare across our media and hit us hard over these coming days and weeks and we must prepare for that.
Behind those statistics will be devastation for families and friends of those who pass on.
To say it isn’t an easy time is an understatement for the nation, not least the families and friends of those taken from us. The circumstances of the crisis bring an extra layer of suffering to the bereaved and to those accompanying the seriously ill. Not least in that it will not be possible for some of the close relatives to be by their loved ones’ side to accompany them in their final moments. Not being able to hug them afterwards. Desolate funerals, heart-breaking farewells and so few around to console. It’s difficult to believe that we are actually living through these times.
Let them know that while we may not be able to be with them in person, we are in spirit.
We also think of those who have lost jobs or feel their business or work might not survive this crisis. It has been a sudden, unexpected, bewildering experience. In the middle of the Covid-19 crisis, when others are dying, it might not seem right to lament aloud the many financial strains facing individuals and families. But their anguish should not go unacknowledged. There are entire families worried for the future this Easter. Let’s make their cry our own and commend their cause to the Lord.
We think of those who at times like this might fall beneath the radar of our attention – those normally considered on the edges: the homeless, people with addictions, residents of the Direct Provision centres, refugees, prisoners, people in socio demographic categories typically most impacted when the pendulum swings.
How are they doing? What has become of them? How are they coping with the threat of Covid-19? In particular, I am mindful of those in Direct Provision. Some of them are elderly and with underlying health conditions. Let’s not forget them. They are not cocooned but neither should they in their Direct Provision centres be left exposed to risk. We have a duty of care also to them.
While our focus has been rightly on the elderly and those with underlying conditions, we think also further afield of those we are beginning to hear a little about, perhaps too little, in news broadcasts – the peoples of what is euphemistically termed ‘the developing world’, people from the worst socio-economic disadvantage. We cannot but be fearful of the horrendous direct and collateral damage the Coronavirus will visit on cities and remote rural communities in those regions of the world. Many deaths, sufferings without the benefits of healthcare, big gaps in public health possibilities. Many deaths in silence, the rest of us completely unaware of their plight. Yes, we need to storm heaven that the Covid-19 virus will be stopped in its tracks and that the angel of death may not strike too mercilessly upon them.
A UN report published on Friday reveals how migrant workers are being affected. Massive job losses among migrant workers will have knock on effects on economies heavily dependent on money being sent home.
The same UN report reveals the impact that the Coronavirus will have on women. The fact that women make up 70 percent of the global health workforce puts them at greater risk of infection.
A report from New York shows that wealthier parts of the city have the fewest number of coronavirus cases
In thinking of all of those I have mentioned today, we can be grateful for all who are working on their behalf. There are many charities active in outreach. But these charities too are under threat. So we need to remember them – the Vincent de Paul, Simon, Trócaire, the McVerry Trust, and many, many more. Though many of us are struggling financially, perhaps there are others who can keep up donations to these charities.
We are an Easter people. As Christians, we are to be heralds of the Resurrection. This year our world is shrouded in darkness. But our Easter faith reminds us to be apostles of light and hope. Wherever we are, cocooning, self-isolating or social distancing, let us not remain remote. In our thoughts, prayers and charitable outreach, let’s make our own the needs of others.
All the best as we enter Holy Week.