This question has been tossing about in my head during the Easter Season. This mysterious stone of Covid–19 that has brought the world to its knees and continues to baffle the most skilled Scientists worldwide. It all began in a remote town in China; cause unknown, initially fingers pointed to the bat, but one wonders if the innocuous bat alone caused all this damage! We honestly thought the virus would be contained over there, so to speak, but unfortunately that was not to be and little by little it reared its ugly head in northern Italy and then as quick as lightening, the steady trickle of river ‘corona’ became a fast flowing deluge engulfing Europe, America and large tracks of all continents. The question remains, who will roll back the stone…? We had hoped that the renowned scientists who are working round the clock would soon devise a vaccine that would push away the steely stone Covid-19, that has disrupted all forms of life. But sadly not yet….!
As the women made their way to the tomb on that Easter Sunday morning their one fear was Whowill roll back the stone? But when they got there the stone was miraculously rolled back and Jesus the Healer and Savior was Alive having left the tomb and was appearing under many guises and in different places, restoring life, hope, peace and happiness among his dispirited friends and followers. Where is He now today when we need Him most to heal and strengthen us, to comfort the dying, to heal the broken hearted who cannot even mourn their dead? Who will roll back this stone?
Throughout history and in many parts of the world plagues have ravaged people and places. Indeed going back to Genesis, the Tower of Babel came tumbling down to the ground when there was defiance to the command of God. These are just a few of the many thoughts that come upon my mind as I live this time of solitude, in semi-isolation in Claremorris during Covid-19. Maybe God has a lesson here for us too….as the Psalmist says “Oh that today we would listen to his voice harden not our hearts” (Ps. 95)
I do miss my ministry in Knock at this time of the year, which has become what it was in the beginning –A Silent Witness. My days are somehow different at this time. They have taken on a character of their own, a sense of wonder, a waiting, an expectation, a watching and praying for someone to roll back this stone. Of course there is the daily housework to be done too. There is the tangible silence when the tic, tack of the clock takes over….Then there is the magic of the human voice coming via the mobile phone asking, “How are things?” “How are you?” And one day a card came through the post box from an OLA community, each Sister had a written a special note of concern. I sat down holding it, cherishing it, ah t‘was good..! The God that lies hidden in compassion and thoughtfulness.
Who will roll backed the stone? Well there are so many hands all working together to roll back the stone; we have the health care staff, sacrificing their own lives, health and time, working round the clock to help those afflicted. There are the many others, the restaurants, café shops and all such suppliers bringing meals and supplies etc. to hospital workers and people in need at this time. There are the chaplains, priests and laity bringing compassion, love and care to the sick and dying, and consoling the grieving families who are standing by helplessly as their loved ones pass away. Who can forget the 8 year old boy from Tuam who got on his bicycle and rode 45 kilometers within a confined radius to raise 20.000 Euros for the University Hospital in Galway! Again, the God that lies hidden in acts of love, compassion and kindness. Jesus is Risen and is appearing in so many ways amongst us. The stone is being rolled back before our eyes!
Another feature in this scenario is that it has brought the present very much into focus. I recall the grieving relatives of the elderly in nursing homes, who had sent them in to be cared for and in some cases, through unfortunate circumstances, the worst happened. The future is not in our hands. I do remember the days of yore; our upcoming events would be enshrined in the words “with the help of God.’ How true!
Being unable to travel the outer journey and having time on my side, I thought of an inner journey. One of unlimited distance and covering many decades into the human heart. What a labyrinth of twists and turns, ups and downs, sunlight and shadow. A fascinating journey, meeting up with the ‘stones’ in one’s own life, and who will roll back these stones? The journey continues and fortunately the Psalmist gives a hint and good advice – ‘Why are you downcast oh my soul, why groan within me, Hope in God, I will praise Him still, my Saviour and my God.’ Ps.43\5. The psalms are a gift, a road map on life’s journey and if this cocooning continues for much longer I may be tempted to write my own book of psalms!
Well nature is having its day, detoxing by the hour. And the fox roaming Grafton Street during the week was a sight wonderful to behold. I am sure he was hoping the butcher would have opened its doors! The clear skies, even the clouds seem brighter, nature seems so alive, happy and fresh, and here am I enclosed in a web of seemingly unfair regulations of restricted mobility. We are told daily they are for our good, but there are other aspects of our health too that are being undermined as a result. Well the Psalmist was ahead of his time again when in psalm 89 he tells us ‘70 is the sum of your years and 80 for the strong.’ Well it’s been hooted at us now from all angle!
I had better stop here; I could go on and on…And this new normality that is being talked about, I wonder what form it will take? In my simplistic way, I wonder if maybe we could interact a little more respectfully with nature and our environment. Easier said than done in the highly technicalised and economically oriented world that is ours today. The watching, waiting, hoping and praying continues for some time still, until our scientists get the vaccine that will destroy this ghastly stone that is covid-19. Until then we will all keep pushing back the stone in our own way, releasing the power of compassion, love, commitment, courage and integrity throughout society, throughout the world – releasing the God that may be hidden in caves of our own making in our own life and in our world today.
I am reminded of what Fr. Michael Paul Gallagher SJ once wrote, “God seems to be missing from our society today but He is not missed.” If only I could tell Fr. Gallagher now, God is indeed missed and very much so, and we are all calling on Him daily, hourly to reach down and help us To Roll Back this Stone!