Saturday, April 11, 2020

Relevance of Resurrection in the context of COVID: Easter 2020

This image drawn by Rev. Caroline Beckett[1] captures the Good Friday moments of 2020, which I have called it as “Crucified COVID Christ.” Here we see Jesus as a COVID infected person on ventilators lying in an intensive care hospital bed. Caroline has drawn this image so well, that she recognises that the world we live in today is an infectious space and captures this image of Covid Christ on the Cross, bringing in the relevance of Jesus’ crucifixion for our times. She also has drawn two women with their masks on, with social distancing to one another, weeping at the foot of this COVID cross, weeping and grieving for the dying Covid Christ. Many thanks to Caroline for this powerful public contextual Christological imaging, making Jesus relevant for our times today in 2020.

As I meditate on this image on this Holy Saturday, which I call better Saturday (as it is interspersed between Good Friday and Best Sunday, Easter Day), for there is silence behind and hope ahead, the resurrection of Jesus Christ becomes so meaningful and relevant for us. Allow me to stretch this image of Caroline to imagine that this Crucified Covid Christ died on Good Friday and was buried, and laid in the tomb on this better Saturday, for God raised this Christ back to life on the Easter day. The message of Easter is a message of hope to the entire creation today. That by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the sting of death was broken, the root of Coronavirus is addressed and the lockdown is unlocked, calling the creation for a celebration of hope, new life and a new creation. God raised this crucified Christ as a first fruit (I Cor 15:20), promising resurrection to everyone after him.

As a risen Christ, he comes first to Mary consoling her as she was weeping and worrying, and in that encounter when she hears the voice of the Lord in her calling the name, she turns her fears to wonder and witness. Mary Magdalene represents all those weeping for the loss of their dear ones due to this virus and finds solace and comfort on hearing the voice of the risen Christ, inviting us to seek such comfort in the risen Lord. In asking Mary, why are you weeping? Jesus in a way was conveying to Mary when I have taken the virus on me, why are you still weeping? The risen Jesus Christ appeared to Mary as a counter-infectious risen Lord, for she went and told the men disciples that “I have seen the Lord.” In the context of Covid, when Mary recognises the voice of Jesus, for me that risen Jesus was a counter-infectious Lord, for he joins with the rest of the community in creating a new creation. By counter-infectious i mean to say that God in Jesus is working along with the Easter community in countering the infection to transform the world by offering hope, care, peace and love. 

It is instructive here to realise that God is not trying to fix the world through this pandemic, and this can be further understood when Keller invokes the togetherness of all in the community to transform this given situation. Keller says, “But each, only in our all-togetherness — human, animal, vegetable, mineral. That togetherness takes on new meanings now, in all the layers of planetary interdependence, deadly or benign, oppressive or just, at home or in public. Now, as we learn that social distance does not mean separation, right in the midst of catastrophe, that Spirit might turn you, turn me, turn us together — into catalysts of transformation. We might not fix much that is already too badly broken. But in a new, dark hopefulness, might we become creative collaborators? Even with the Creator, the one who triggers the simplest matter and the subtlest minds to new creation? This is not a story of top-down creating. This new creation comes as we cooperate with each other and with the divine source of every other.” [2] On encountering the risen Jesus, Mary became a channel of carrying that counter-infection of hope, in collaborating with Jesus in sharing that news with the rest of the disciples. This counter-infectious hope that risen Jesus shared became viral and infectious that several people in history and in our world today join in transforming our world.

This counter-infectious risen Jesus then appears to the men disciples who have been under lock down at their home due to the fear of the Empire. These bunch of men disciples today represent all those who have been isolated and are living under lock down situations due to this Coronavirus, for this risen Jesus appears to them and proclaims at three times “peace be with you,” which conveys that these disciples are in need of peace to that extent. In our self-isolations, the risen Lord appears at our own homes to share his peace, a counter-infectious resurrection peace. Isn’t this a message of hope for us today?

This counter-infectious risen Jesus appears to the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus, who have been walking frustrated and disappointed with the happenings at Jerusalem on the Good Friday. These two disciples represent today those frustrated and disappointed people who are not finding hope amidst this virus, as they are not able to do things that they have normally would have done. This risen Jesus appears to them and opens their hearts, eyes and minds to the hope in Christ, and joins them in eating with them, offering hope and comfort.

This counter-infectious risen Jesus appears to Thomas, who was doubting and questioning, inviting him after that imposed social-distancing to touch his wounds to find that the virus is defeated. Thomas represents for me those people, despite social-distancing have to touch the wounds of people in treating them, in nursing them and in caring for them. On touching this counter-infectious risen Jesus Christ in the infected person, they like Thomas are exclaiming ‘My Lord and my God,’ testifying to the healing of people.  

In the context of this virus, there are many stories of positivity that are being shared as counter-infectious stories of hope. After being tested positive for this virus and living in quarantine, there are many people who have shared their stories of recovery and healing, in such acts I see the relevance of resurrection today, as a counter-infectious act. Communities are today forming as groups to support one another, specially the vulnerable and there has been an increased neighbourliness among people, in which acts I see the relevance of resurrection as a countering the infection together as communities. Doctors, nurses, carers, cleaners, people working at super markets and all other key workers who are risking their lives and are striving to save the lives of the people today, in such acts I see the relevance of resurrection today, for the counter-infectious risen Christ comes alive in their actions. Out of their lockdowns and isolations, when people are trying to be creative with their walking, singing, playing music, cooking different recipes, pitching tents in their gardens, paintings, calling one another by phones, gatherings on zoom, online prayers, participating in virtual faith spaces and discussions, sending e-greeting cards, street whats-app groups, partying on zoom etc., the relevance of resurrection comes alive today, for people are trying to overcome the virus by creating counter-infectious spaces at their own places. In short, the relevance of resurrection today is for us as communities to be and becoming counter-infectious spaces, offering hope like the risen Jesus, sharing peace, collaborating with risen Jesus and by caring for one another. Resurrection of Jesus Christ is real, and all who join with such a counter-infected risen Jesus can offer real hope to this world living in hopelessness.

If Caroline has to draw the image of a counter-infectious risen Jesus, I am sure she would draw it with risen Jesus in collaboration with others striving to heal and share peace with one another. This is just a thought (from my own subjectivity of subalternity), she might again surprise us with a more relevant image. We will wait for that image of the counter-infectious risen Jesus Christ.

Let me conclude with the words of Caroline, “The Covid19 pandemic is a terrible thing. Unspeakable sorrows are playing out hour by hour across our world. But God has always brought light from darkness, faith from despair, life from lifelessness, good from wrong. Whatever this season is, it will pass and become another part of that long story of the people of God. It is not the end but a chapter for us to live well in love. Let’s do that.”[3] The final image I want to leave you with is from Caroline again, a relevant one for our Holy Saturday[4].

May the hope of Jesus resurrection grant us strength to be part of counter-infectious spaces in sharing peace, healing and love with our world today.

Rev. Dr. Raj Bharat Patta
11th April 2020

[2] Catherine Keller, A Letter from Catherine Keller,”

Caroline writes this commentary for this image, “God. Died. Let that sink in. There's no depth of misery, fear, pain or darkness God has not known, lived, claimed, embraced & healed. God shrinks from no part of us. This is the length, breadth, depth & height of God's love for us. However dark your path, God is on it with you.”

1 comment:

Unknown said...

A really thought-provoking read, with faith shining through it. Thank you.