There is a saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” At this very difficult time few people have any real idea where they are going. Is this corona thing directing all our steps? Or maybe where they might go when we will finally be allowed to venture out of our hiding places again. Maybe those in Wuhan in China have a better idea than those of us who were hit later by this space-age but miniscule threat to our lives. But as arguably the end of the most traumatic month in human history no one knows whether they or their job will still be here in a week, month or year.
Our President Cyril Ramaphosa is constantly encouraging, telling us, “We will survive, together.” If we can flatten the curve. Of the corona-virus infection rate. Survival is also dependent on taking action; preventing, dealing with, treating, vaccinating. These are in themselves dependent on social distancing, hygiene and people’s, willing or possible, adherence to measures put in place by the government. But, quo vadis, do we know?
We’ve been glued to TV screens on and off for days to catch any new item of interest. Then one international speaker caught my attention. “Flattening the curve of climate change is necessary”, he said. Some might respond, “there are greater priorities, or “not now, we have people to worry about.” The lives and wellbeing of humankind are our first priority as citizens of the global village. However I feel affirmed by our 2020 family theme: “Our world a family of families.” It does include, but goes beyond, humankind. Shortages of health-related supplies, masks, gloves and sanitisers are critical, but equally so are food security and water, aspects of the environment. In the developing world, including almost all parts of Africa, poverty is a critical factor too.
Everyone is affected, rich, middle class, working class and those millions who do not work and are dependent on welfare and grants and not forgetting the homeless and refugees. Every country has this composition, but universally the poor are a much larger proportion of the population.
Is poverty an economic issue, a social, human, a spiritual issue or all them? At a time like this naturally the economic aspects are vital. Christianity and Judaism are entering our most sacred season of Holy Week and Easter, the commemoration of the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christian churches and communities across the world have had to curtail their celebrations because of the health hazard of gathering in large groups. How then can this season be celebrated?
On the whole church services have become very formal and ritualised over the centuries and their beauty and value is seen as incorporated into the rituals. This year has to be different. As church doors are closed the media is taking over and YouTube, facebook and streaming online will be the chosen experience. The readings of the ceremonies can be read and meditated on at home, alone or in families, or very small groups that may have different preferences, convictions and practices.
But another approach is also possible. What was Jesus’ experience? Quo vadis? Where was he going on those days from Palm Sunday, when the people wanted to make him king, to Good Friday when they called out, “Crucify him?” Who was responsible for his death? What kind of kingdom was he promoting? Where would he stand in 2020? In this time of environmental degradation of God’s earth, where there is greater inequality and more poverty than ever, what would be his message?
My own reading and reflection over recent times has opened up new vistas. Would Jesus not find the new solidarity exhibited across the world in the fight against Covid-19 heart-warming? Would he weep over Johannesburg, New York and Rome as he wept over Jerusalem? On Friday evening 27 March when Pope Francis stood alone in the empty square at St Peter’s he prayed in the words of the apostles, “Lord do you not care?” Jesus replied to his disciples and to us, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” The Holy Father continued, acknowledging our failings and yet asking for mercy. “Lord, In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”. For full text go to https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-03/urbi-et-orbi-pope-coronavirus-prayer-blessing.html
During our lockdown time, there are many things we can do that can include practising our faith in many different ways, simple and common or more unusual at home in families. Some liturgy related suggestions for the season are given below.
There is also a wealth of religious music of many types, books to read and films to watch. Like Quo Vadis. In the area of climate change and the need for ecological conversion there are amazing series such as OUR PLANET which outline the problems and issue a call on us to become environmental warriors.
Quo Vadis was a movie made in 1951, one of a number of films on religious themes, set in the early years of Christianity when people were persecuted for their faith. It is a love story of a Christian woman and a Roman soldier. Other films on religious themes appropriate for this time The Robe, the Silver Chalice and Ben-Hur were the staple of our growing years. Later there was a beautiful series JESUS OF NAZARETH, also musicals Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar among others.
The events of the last months across the world have been unnerving and spiritually challenging and are an invitation to ask, “Quo Vadis.” As pope Francis said, “We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. TR FAMILY WEEKLY 1 APRIL 2020
For home liturgies for A Family Prayer Meal, Family Reconciliation service, Veneration of the Cross go to https://www.marfam.org.za/holy-week-and-easter-in-the-home-march-2020/