Christ's Response to COVID-19
#ChristResponseCOVID19 is the podcast for April 9, 2020. What did Jesus leave us in response to COVID-19. This is the first part. Listen here FREE and find out more: Download it into your phone. #John13 #ServantLeadership #Servanthood #Eucharist #LoveOneAnother
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 4/9/2020 Holy Thursday.
Please pause this audio and read John 13:1-17, 31b-35.
We must mourn as those who have hope because he told us what was going to happen.
It has always confused me that on this night, the night that Holy Eucharist is instituted, the night that Jesus says, “This IS my Body,” and “This IS my blood,” that we do not have these passages of the Words of Institution read and preached. I want to be able to tell you that the Eucharist is Jesus. In many of your homes, where the Bishop has granted temporary permission to have a Chapel, Jesus is bodily (soul and divinity) in your home right now. I want to tell you that he is leaving us himself for a planned death.
In the readings leading up to this day, Holy Thursday, Jesus clearly knew what was happening. He told us someone was going to betray him and he handed the morsel to Judas, who at this very hour is going to get the authorities to come arrest him. He is going to get the authorities and then rub salt in the wound of betrayal by indicating the one he is sending to his death by a kiss. Wretched! All for $600! It would seem that betrayal wins.
At this very hour, they are coming to get our Lord to take him away to a series of events. As they are coming, the Lord will find us unable to stay awake and pray for him. The guards are going to come with Judas. They are going to arrest him unlawfully. (It would seem arrest wins.) They will beat him in custody. They will try him in a Jim Crow court. They will mock him, spit on him, put a crown of thorns on his head, nail him to the Cross and let him die an excruciatingly painful and suffocating death. It would seems death wins.
All of this will leave us empty. We will feel as though we have been abandoned or lost. We could easily get caught up in the lostness of it, especially as our country faces this COVID-19 pandemic. My friends, that is possible, but even on this night where His death looms large over us, there is hope. The hope is that everyone is acting like these turn of events is the end, that is, everyone but Jesus Christ, the very person who is to die.
Instead, he is having us wash feet. Why would we do that? Why is that what he is leaving behind? It is because Jesus doesn’t see this as the end. He sees this as the process. He knew this is what was going to happen, so now he is preparing us to live with Him at the right hand of the Father. That is what we say in the Creed. This is the process. It is the process by which he must face all that the world has to throw at God. What started in the Garden of Eden with Satan tempting Eve and now it has culminated in this hour.
This is the God man we are talking about here. Satan is going to marshal the strong arm of the government; the soft power influence of the religious authorities; the allure of jealousy, lust, and greed to turn followers against him; the allure of money to turn one of his own to betrayal. This is everything the kingdoms of this world and their ruler, the Prince of Lies, has to throw at God. What is Satan’s claim? It is that he is like God. At this moment, he will try to defeat God by killing him incarnate on earth. It is foolishness. The created is going to try to kill the Creator.
In the face of this foolishness, all of his followers are going to forget the plan. They, we, are going to get sucked into the idea that the bodily death is the end of him. We are going to think the power of the government is the end. We are going to think the power of the religious authorities is the end. We are going to think that the power of sin, be it idolatry, taking the Lord’s name in vain, forgetting God on Sunday, murder, adultery, lying, stealing, or jealousy, are all more powerful than God himself. They are so much more pleasing, sometimes for sure, but they are all lies. We are going to think that unless he exerts ruthless power or he gives us what we want when we want it, that Jesus is weak. All of this we will think because he allows betrayal, arrest, and death. We are the ones who see it as the end.
Jesus doesn’t see this as the end. Neither should we.
Instead, we should hold onto what he is leaving us as he embarks on his journey to the right hand of the Father. He is leaving us with a model for leadership that is rooted in service. Bishops wash the feet of their clergy, clergy wash the feet of their parishioners, spouses each other’s feet, parents wash children’s feet, the rich wash the poor’s feet, and on and on. The model of servant leadership is that we love one another.
As I mentioned earlier on Palm Sunday, he knew he was pulling the Paschal trigger pointed at his own head. He did it anyway to save us. This night, he is leaving us something that seems so ludicrous and mundane.
It is ludicrous and mundane until we realize that he left us his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, which we take into our very bones. When we consume Him into us, he transforms us from within. We lose faith in power, prestige, and sin. We change. We are different. Then, we become him.
We become people who do things that only first responders do, that medical professionals on the front lines do. We become one with the One who sacrificed himself for humanity and this meal changes our hearts, changes our minds, it causes us to say life is first, every life and every life deserves a ventilator. Every life deserves testing. Every life is worth everything because we follow the one who gave everything to save life itself.
Our contribution to the conversation in a democracy is that we are the ones who say life at conception, life at birth, life in poverty, life in disability, life in struggle, life in illness, life in prison, life in old age, life in infirmity, life, just life in all its forms is sacred. It is sacred because our Lord was rejected, arrested, convicted, ridiculed, and subjected to death and we become one with Him every time we consume Him in Eucharist. His washing of feet is our washing of feet. His rejection is our rejection. His arrest is our arrest. His conviction is our conviction. His ridicule is our ridicule. His struggle is our struggle. His beating is our beating. His nails are our nails. His death is our death. Our washing of feet is His washing of feet. Our rejection is His rejection. Our arrest is his arrest. Our conviction is His conviction. Our ridicule is His ridicule. Our struggle is His struggle. Our beating is His beating. Our nails are His nails. Our rejection is His rejection. Our death is His death.
Oh, wait, there it is. There it is because it doesn’t stop there. His understanding of these events is our understanding of these events. In Matthew 16, Matthew 17, and Matthew 20, Jesus tells us that this is going to happen, but we should not fear. Hear what he says in Matthew 20:17-19.
“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”
The disciples sat in the Upper Room and refused to believe him. They could not fathom that death is not the end. They only heard up to the part “…and crucified.” So, I am not ruining the drama of this week. I am not giving away the end. This was part of the plan because death, for those who are one with Jesus is like His death. We can face this night in silence to ponder what is about to happen. He will be sacrificed for our sins, our disbelief, our rejection of God in the secret places of our lives. Yet, we need to have a foundation of hope in what we face this Triduum.
This is what Christianity has to offer the COVID-19 pandemic. We can offer that we know that all life is sacred and all governmental resources should be marshaled to save as many lives as possible. We should be sending every piece of PPE and ventilators to the hot spots, allocated appropriately. We believe that because we know that our Lord was not treated properly by the government and we never want that for anyone. We know that because it would be the equivalent of washing the feet of every COVID-19 patient. It is a sin to not do so.
We also should know that the suffering of COVID-19 patients is not in vain. Our suffering is His suffering. As we remember the Sacrifice of the Mass, we revisit the event of Jesus taking the sin and suffering of all the world and nailing it with his body to renew it all when he comes again on the third day. Christ will redeem the suffering of COVID-19. The suffering of the victims is not in vain. It has value to us. It reminds us to dust we have come and to dust we shall return. Our welfare is wrapped up in each other’s welfare.
We should also know the death of COVID-19 patients is not in vain because they are not dead. They are alive. These events tonight are a transition into defeating death. We believe that those who have died are now facing the Lord. There is a new and better reality than fighting with Satan and his temptations, his lies, his destruction, his killing; than struggling with sin. Each of these individual deaths is just a microcosm of what we know is going to happen to the entire world: Jesus is going to come again and renew it all.
We know that the bodies will be raised and reunited with their souls. The heaven and earth will be renewed. All will be made better than new.
Yet, we still have to face the ugliness of betrayal, arrest, and death. We have to go through it, as Jesus told the disciples three times we would; because we go through it.. So, as we strip the sanctuary within the nave of the church bare, as we leave the Tabernacle open and empty to symbolize how we felt when Jesus had to be sacrificed for our sins to the point of death, we should be silent and ponder this great sacrifice. Yet, we ponder it, as we process him to the other Tabernacle in the other room. He is not gone for good, he is just in the tomb. We will be lost, lonely, and wonder where he is, but he is still there and we will see him again. We may be lost, lonely, and wonder where he is in this COVID-19 world, but he is still here and we will see him again.
So, get into the moment. Let all your anxiety, lostness, and loneliness at his betrayal, arrest, and death, at the COVID-19 pandemic, rise to the surface. Let the feelings be tender and hurt. Yet, do it as people who mourn with hope. He said this is how it would be. Let’s find out.
May the Lord bless the preaching of this word. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2020.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian