Holy Week at Home

As I type this reflection, I hear the sounds of two little boys – one age 5, one age 2 – playing, fighting, and laughing. I’m writing this reflection from my home because we are under strict shelter-in-place orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That is such a strange thing to type. Who could have predicted that this how we would be spending Holy Week – sheltering at home – doing our best to work, do school work, keep up the house, and be a family, all while we are under the threat of a deadly virus. And yet…

It is Holy Week.

I’ve seen a lot of blog posts and memes and social media posts from parents who are struggling to make this all work. So many feel that their workload has tripled or quadrupled in recent weeks. Although technology makes many things possible, it is not always convenient or time-saving. It does not provide adequate supervision for your toddler when you are trying to do your job from home (for those of us privileged enough to be able to work from home, which is worthy of its own blog post). It cannot teach your preschooler math and reading on its own. It cannot care for a loved-one. These things require human, adult presence.

In order to keep in touch with my church, I now have to write and send letters, format and schedule social media posts, and make phone calls and send text messages. Instead of being able to meet over coffee or in my office to share people’s joy and pain, I have to do this through phone calls. I had the blessing of praying over speakerphone with one of our members who was dying, but it could not entirely replace my physical presence with her. Technology can help facilitate communication, but technology is not the same thing as human presence.

Jesus knew the importance of human presence – of intimacy and human touch. Last evening we (virtually) celebrated Holy Thursday with other churches in El Valle District, reflecting on Christ’s presence in Holy Communion. Although we aren’t able to gather for Holy Communion at this time, we acknowledge and give thanks for the fact that we are still connected with one another and with Christ through the Holy Spirit – his presence. Before his crucifixion, Jesus gathered with his disciples for an intimate meal. This supper was the last at which he’d be physically present with them. After supper, he washed their feet – a deeply intimate act that conveyed humility and compassion and mercy to his friends. It made tangible his new commandment to them to love each other has he had loved them. After all, loving another human requires all of these things. Then Jesus reminded them that in a little while he would go to the Father and they would no longer have his human presence with them. He assured them, though, not to worry, not to be troubled, that he would ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit to be with them to be their Advocate and their Comforter. He would not abandon them, he said.

25 Jesus’ mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood near the cross. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.”  27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home. – John 19:25-27

Even on the cross, Jesus understood the human need for love and connection. Perhaps he was just being a good son, making sure his mother is cared for, but he had brothers and sisters for that. Maybe he knew his beloved disciple needed a surrogate mom, though he probably was used to not having a family around since he was an itinerant preacher like Jesus. No, I think in this moment, Jesus is reminding them – and us – of his ultimate message: love one another as I have loved you. Love one another as if you are a family. You are a family now. Show the love that I have shown you to one another because you are going to need it. You won’t see me physically, but you will see me – you will have my Spirit within you. Love one another.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul, what wondrous love is this, O my soul!

American folk hymn, The United Methodist Hymnal, #292