A reflection for Holy Saturday
For many of us – we who are not on the frontline in medicine, care or retail – the experience of the global pandemic could be described as a prolonged Holy Saturday. A time of waiting, without knowing what lies ahead of us; without being able to do very much. This inability to help is hard for many of us, whether we have children who we desperately want to help, or elderly relatives, or people we know who depend on help in our local communities.
I suspect that it is very much like the experience that the early disciples, Jesus’ friends and followers and his family had. Still in shock after the events on Good Friday, his sudden arrest followed by his brutal crucifixion, now there is nothing they can do.
According to the accounts of Matthew and John, Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body and Nicodemus brought the spices and linen cloths to prepare it for burial. In Mark and Luke’s version, they even do not have the opportunity to prepare the body properly, and so it is only on the morning after the Sabbath that the women come to anoint him and find the tomb empty.
In either case the farewell is rushed; there is no chance to find closure at this point. A raw and painful experience that also many have endured in the past couple of months or will endure in the weeks that lie ahead of us. Suddenly, everything is different, and there is nothing we can do to respond. Or is there?
Some have suggested that the period of emptiness that many of us are experiencing is an ideal time to read, to study and to pray. I have to admit that I have found this a real challenge. I have not even read half of the books I wanted to read, let alone found the motivation to take up some serious study. I know some who have, but also many who, like me, haven’t felt able to do so.
Maybe this is a time particularly to practise our faithfulness, and our ability to watch and wait. A time of which we will only be able to see its fruits afterwards. Just like the disciples were left with God’s ancient promise to Moses resonating through the ages, so are we now: “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed”.
It is a promise, not a command. Of course, there are times when we are afraid and dismayed, either when we see the statistics appearing in the news, or even more so when our own loved ones are in hospital, struggling to stay alive. However, we have been given the promise that God is with us, in all of this.
So maybe this time of waiting and watching can be a time to practise our faithfulness, to practice not giving up on our beliefs, our hopes and God’s promise. Beyond all of this lies a new life. A life that will be marked by what went before, but also a life that will offer us something that transcends the old. That is the Easter hope, and that what we are waiting for now.