POMETTO: A strange Lent leading to an extraordinary Easter

April 14, 2020

This Lent has been crazy! I couldn’t have said that last week because for Lent this year, I gave up saying the word “crazy.”

This decision came from a desire to be more thoughtful in my speech and more intentional about how I communicate thoughts and ideas. I realized that I say the word “crazy” very often and that the definition of the term varies, depending on the context. When I decided on this sacrifice, I had no idea what a difficult challenge it was going to be — this year in particular. But thanks to my Lenten practice, I have come to Easter with a new range of “vocabulary.”

I claim that this Lent has been “beyond belief” mostly due to the worldwide panic over the Coronavirus. I think it’s safe to say that all of us have been affected in some way, which is pretty “bizarre.” Because of COVID-19, some of us have remained home more than usual. We have canceled events and travel plans. We have dealt with children who were supposed to be at school. We have gone to the store to be faced with empty shelves. We have missed Sunday Mass. No one could have predicted this “improbable” turn of events as Lent began back in February.

Because of these “unlikely” events, I believe each of us now has a new perspective on what it must have been like for the first disciples. These men and women had followed Jesus for three years of His public ministry. They had seen Him cure the sick, cast out demons and even raise the dead. Yes, they had sensed the rising tension with the religious authorities in Jerusalem, but on Palm Sunday, these disciples watched as all of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus as a king. “The crowds … began to shout, ‘Praise to David’s Son! God Bless Him who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise be to God!’” (Matthew 21:9).

“Who would have believed what we now report? Who could have seen the Lord’s hand in this?” writes the prophet Isaiah (53:1). Who could have predicted this “preposterous” turn of events? The disciples started with Jesus on Sunday, hearing the crowds shouting His praises. By Friday morning, most of the disciples had scattered in fear when Jesus had been arrested.

Only the apostle John, the Blessed Mother, and several other women followed Jesus all the way to the foot of the cross (John 19:25-27). At that cross, these witnesses heard Jesus speak His final words, “It is finished” and then watched His spirit leave Him in death (John 19:29).

Every year during Holy Week, Catholics are given the opportunity to reflect on these events. Every year, we face the truth that Jesus died. I think that this year, we have been given a special grace to experience the shock that the disciples must have felt. These events would have rocked the world of those first disciples. And who among us this year has not felt their world rocked in some way? It’s the feeling of walking forward on a known path, and then suddenly, we find ourselves lost in a dark wood. Where we once felt safe, we now feel fear and uncertainty, and we cannot see the way ahead.

But thankfully, the story does not end there. Jesus conquered death. He rose from the dead. “I will sing to the LORD, for He is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot He has cast into the sea” (Exodus 15:1). What caused us fear, He vanquished. “I was fiercely attacked and was being defeated, but the Lord helped me. The Lord makes me powerful and strong; He has saved me” (Psalm 118:13-14).

We have journeyed with Coronavirus through this “unusual” Lent and walked with Jesus to the cross. Our story will not end here. This Easter, we are being called to discover the joy of the resurrection again. St. John Paul II writes: “’We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!’ We are not looking for a shallow joy but rather a joy that comes from faith that grows through unselfish love” (Angelus Address, 30 November 1986).

If you are struggling to experience the joy and peace of the resurrection this Easter, why not try an act of unselfish love? There are still many ways to show love, even if we are still practicing social distancing: send a letter, make time for a FaceTime call, meet up with a friend for an outdoor walk.

This Lent has been “peculiar.” Let’s make our celebration of Easter truly “remarkable.”

Angie Pometto is an associate director for the Archdiocesan Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry.