Easter in a Time of Pandemic: Faith, Hope, and Fake Positivity

I have spent a week trying to write this reflection.

I wanted to have it up on Easter Sunday, but the words just didn’t come.  My thoughts were jumbled, my mind so easily distracted.  Throughout this week, everything I tried to write either didn’t make sense, sounded too doom and gloomy for Easter, or too insensitively cheerful for a pandemic.  I certainly don’t want put anything out there that falls into the category of fake positivity (Good vibes only! No negative energy allowed!) or worse, spiritual bypassing (using spiritual ideas or practices to avoid facing problems or negative feelings).   I want to celebrate the Easter season, I really do, but I’m finding it difficult.

So instead I spent a great deal of time reading all of kinds of wonderful reflections by other people with great insights into the Gospel readings this week. So many reminded me that the first disciples, the first witnesses to the resurrection, were probably also feeling conflicted feelings – joy and confusion, hope coupled with disbelief.  Similar to one of the Ignatian spiritual exercises where you use your imagination to place yourself into the Gospel story you are reading, I tried to immerse myself in the resurrection stories, and I realized that there was probably a lot of anxiety, doubt, and confusion among the disciples in those first days after they found the empty tomb.  One of the best reflections I found was a Twitter thread by Stephanie Tait :

“I think we too often make Holy Saturday about waiting for Sunday.  About patience.  But that requires hindsight not foresight, it’s for a people who already know what’s coming next in the story.  The people of Holy Saturday didn’t have that.

For them Holy Saturday was the ultimate ‘How much do you trust Me’ moment.  For them it was watching all of their hopes die and be laid in a tomb and having to decide ‘is God still good?’

Holy Saturday wasn’t about patience, it was about surrender.  It wasn’t about ‘can I hold on until you fix this,’ it was about ‘if this is it and you never fix this and it never makes any sense to me this side of heaven? You’re still God, you’re still good, and I’m still yours.

I want to have a Holy Saturday faith.  I want to stand in the tension and the uncertainty and see my hope laid dead in that tomb and say ‘You’re still God, You’re still good, and I’m still yours.’

This year more than ever, I want to remember there is holiness in grief.  There is holiness in mourning.  There is holiness in letting go of the illusion of control or the coping mechanism of false positivity, and giving ourselves over to acceptance and surrender. 

There is holiness in learning to be a Holy Saturday people.” @StephTaitWrites

I remember someone (it’s bothering me that I can’t remember their name) telling me that the greatest word in Catholic teaching was the word ‘and’:  Faith AND Reason, Scripture AND Tradition, Human AND Divine, etc.  This Easter I am coming to realize that this is not only true in theology, but in spirituality as well.  I can be disappointed in not being able to spend time with my people, AND still being grateful that I can connect with them in other ways; I can feel anxiety about how uncertain everything is right now AND still trust and have faith that God’s hand is at work to bring about whatever good God has planned for us; I can feel overwhelmed at all of the problems and brokenness this pandemic has revealed, AND still feel hope in every story I read about individuals and communities working together in unprecedented ways to help and protect one another. Good spirituality gets us to acknowledge and confront the negative feelings, to deal with them by integrating them in a healthy way, rather than just avoiding them. It allows us to hold the multitude of conflicting feelings at the same time.

The Resurrection only happened because of the real experiences of death and darkness. The Paschal mystery includes it all – the despair, the waiting, the rejoicing. 

God’s love will always be with us throughout it all.

Taylor, AndreaEaster in a Time of Pandemic: Faith, Hope, and Fake Positivity