Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity sent a video message for United World Week 2020.
In these difficult times we’re living through, marked by the corona virus crisis, many people are confined to their own homes and forced to live in quarantine. The very word “quarantine” brings to mind the forty days of Lent, rather than the celebration of Easter. And in fact our liturgical services, particularly the most important Holy Week and Easter liturgies were affected by government bans and so took place behind closed doors in churches without the presence of the faithful and transmitted via streaming. This out-of-the-ordinary experience has brought to my mind a detail in the biblical account of Easter more vividly than I’ve ever experienced in the past. The evangelist John opens his account of the apparition of the Risen Christ to his disciples with the words, “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews …” (Jn 20:19). Even though the Lord had already risen and was on his way to his disciples, they were still living Holy Saturday, as is evident from their fear and those closed doors.
To this place, beleaguered by fear, Jesus comes and radically changes the situation, as the Gospel highights. “Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (Jn 20:20). Joy is the visible expression of the fact that Holy Saturday is transformed into Easter. And today too, in this moment afflicted by the corona virus crisis, we can rejoice because we know that the Lord does not leave us alone in our fears and worries, but he comes among us and gives us his presence and precious company. Christ is always among us, especially when we await his coming. Chiara Lubich never tired of repeating this message to us.
When Jesus comes among us, he brings us a gift. It’s the same gift he brought to his disciples that Easter night. The Gospel narrates how Jesus came among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Peace is the first gift Jesus gave to his disciples after his resurrection. Peace is the true gift of Easter. Peace is the gift Jesus offers to us as well. It’s a peace we human beings are not able to create on our own; we can only receive it as a gift. Nevertheless, it’s the most important kind of peace, and all other forms of peace we aspire to are but reflections of that peace. In fact, only the peace that comes from Christ can give us the unity we desire so much: unity in our communities, in our Church, among all Christians and in the whole of humanity.
Naturally, this peace cannot remain closed in on itself. The Gospel narrative continues after the greeting of peace, with Jesus telling his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21).These words are also addressed to us. We too are called to transmit to others the peace we receive from Christ. In this way, particularly for those living in fear and anxiety, Holy Saturday can again be transformed into Easter. In this time of trial due to the corona virus, your motto “In Time For Peace” is true and indispensable. My heartfelt wish for a joyful and peaceful Eastertime for all of you. May the Risen Lord of Peace bless and protect you!
Kurt Cardinale Koch