This time, a year ago, none of us were aware of what was coming. There were a few whispers of a strange new virus emerging, and perhaps some beginnings of concern for a new flu-like infection spreading through Asia. But none of us were thinking that a flood was coming, and that the world would be downed in this pandemic – 110 million people infected, 2.5 million deaths, billions of lives and livelihoods overwhelmed. COVID-19 has indeed been a flood of biblical proportions.
Yet, the promise of God, made to Noah and his family, has prevailed. “There shall be no flood to destroy the earth again.” The world has been devastated, but not destroyed; we have been shattered, but not annihilated. Even now, as mass vaccination begins to roll out like a returning dove with an olive twig, the rainbow of God’s abiding love for his creation appears, and his covenant with us renewed.
Perhaps you are not feeling so hopeful at this stage in this journey we have all been on. After all, we’ve only just come out of Lockdown 3.0, and there remains a very deep sense of flux and uncertainty about the immediate future. There are large numbers of families who have been deeply wounded by the isolation from family and community, by the loss of business and cultural engagement, and by the lingering effects of unemployment and health issues. The fatigue of this pandemic sits heavily on our collective shoulders, and there are concerns about the effectiveness, safety and ethics of the vaccines to be offered.
If this is a fair description of where we find ourselves at present in this COVID flood, why would I be proposing to you a word of hope and relief? Because I believe that the path from death to life, from destruction to re-creation, from drowning to saving is permanently marked by the One who took that path on behalf of all humanity, our Saviour Jesus Christ. If we each believe this – even if we need to constantly repeat to ourselves, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24) – then we are making an act of trust that the death and resurrection of Christ defines our future.
We became part of this journey when we were baptised, when we were plunged into another, different ‘flood’ that rescued us from the permanency of death, bringing us the promise of life in Christ. In this particular ‘flood’ that is baptism, we have ourselves been immersed into Christ Jesus – we have shared in his death and received the new life of His resurrection. This ‘flood’ has changed us, so that we might see the world, and live in it, from the perspective of God’s eternal hope for our future.
For this reason do I hold out hope in the midst of the circumstances in which we are presently engulfed. The Lord will find a way; our task is to discover it, and then live it. We are marked with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; as such, we have been re-configured to see the world before us through the lens of our redemption.
As we each stand at the threshold of this Lent of 2021, wondering what it might have in store, I want to offer you a word of encouragement and hope. God will not let us be destroyed; he has our back. As we begin our spiritual journey to the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ, and then on to the empty tomb, know that you are not abandoned, and then work so that we do not abandon each other in our needs.
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli27 January 2021