The Coronavirus has put us all in crisis, and not just in terms of our health-care infrastructure or our employment situation or how our government is administered or our lifestyles. It has certainly put all these in crisis. But it has brought into focus, into the open, something much more radical and personal: our mortality. It has brought it before our eyes suddenly, unexpectedly, and quite irrespective of who we are, whatever our age or social status may be or any other such consideration.
Being forced to face death as a real and immediate possibility requires a response from us. As in every crisis, we need to take a position, a stance, a decision in the face of death, since it could be closer than we imagined.
But in the face of death, who can provide himself with a convincing answer? And what stance or position or decision can be taken other than to accept the inevitability of death, sooner or later?
And yet, the question of my personal death also forces me to look again and to review and to face decisions about my personal life. You could say that death puts life in crisis. At the hour of death, the question really is: how have I lived?
And when I consider life, my life, anyone’s life, death as its final outcome is totally absurd. For how can death be the fruit of life? How can darkness be born of light? How decay be born of growth? It does not make sense.
Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead gives the only true answer to the crisis of life and the crisis of death which we face now and which every human being before and after us must also face. The Coronavirus, then, doesn’t just face us more immediately with our mortality. It faces us most immediately with the Cross and with him who hung upon it.
Our response to the question of death and to the question of life is thus transformed into our response to the question of Jesus who lived, died and rose again. As death and life demand answers from us, so the crucified Christ demands an answer – of everyone. For he is the Saviour of everyone.
If our life is not to end in death, then our death must end in life. And that’s only possible when I accept Jesus Christ as the Saviour of my life and the Victor over my death. Not over life or death in general, but as the Saviour of my life and the Victor over my death. What Jesus does on the Cross is not to prevent me from dying, but to make it possible for me to be delivered out of the death I must die.
With Christ, the statement “I must die” opens out to an “I must rise again.”
Something so uniquely personal and intimate as my very own life and my very own death means that my acceptance of Jesus, my response to him, must be equally intimate and personal. It can’t be vague. It can’t be rationalistic, a matter just in the head. It can’t be based on sentiment. It can’t be based on other people’s convictions. It has to come from the depths, the profoundest depths of my very self. Faith, hope and love of him cannot remain in the head, nor even in the hearts. They must embrace my entire being, for it is my entire being that lives and dies and, with Jesus, rises again.
Truly tragic though the current pandemic is in terms of the suffering and death it is inflicting on the human race, it invites us to turn, to convert, our whole being towards the Cross of the one who carried all our sufferings and sins, the One by whose wounds we are healed and by whose death we rise to life beyond death. It is an opportunity of grace to seek deep spiritual renewal in our relationship with Jesus and with all who believe in him.
Hail, Cross of Christ! Hail, our only hope! Bring us through this trial with new wisdom and renewed faith. In your mercy, deliver us from it and deliver us from death by the blood of your pierced side.