The Christian world is now in the middle of Holy Week. It should have begun , as in the past, with festive palm-waving crowds in churches all over the country, in commemoration of the welcome the people of Jerusalem gave Jesus on that first Palm Sunday.
But all that festivity which we reenact in this country with our version of palm leaves — coconut fronds — was absent his year, for we are in the midst of a lockdown and quarantine banning any mass gathering because of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The whole world – Christian or otherwise – is quiet today. The COVID-19 virus has now quickly spread around the world after it first emerged in China. It hit hard at Italy, forcing a lockdown in Rome and the Vatican, as well as in staunchly Muslim Iran. For the virus recognizes no boundaries and no political or religious orientation. It now threatens to make the United States the next epicenter of the pandemic.
After that glorious welcome on Palm Sunday, Jerusalem settled down into a quiet period much like the quiet we are having today. The Bible recounts that Jesus continued to go to the temple to teach those who came to listen to him, then rested at night with his disciples on the Mount of Olives.
Many of his parables and other teachings are recorded during this period that was quietly leading to Good Friday, when, Jesus said, his purpose for coming to this Earth would be fulfilled. That purpose was stated by St. John who wrote the fourth gospel of the New Testament of the Bible: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
The world today is going through a period of great uncertainty. We have had periods like this before because of wars, of famine, of widespread destruction by storms, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. The fears we have today are due to an unseen enemy which we do not fully understand. All we know is that so many are dying in so many countries around the world, even in such advanced countries like the United States. The quiet of this Holy week reflects that uncertainty we feel.
But our faith tells us there is a glorious Easter Sunday after all the gloom and the fear and the uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic may be surging around the world today, claiming thousands of lives, but we believe and we have faith that like all previous plagues before it, COVID-19 too will come to an end.