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Locked in an upper room

In Catholic schools, students, teachers, and leaders are encouraged to find God in all things. As described in yesterday’s Post, the Catholic worldview is “sacramental,” which means we can find visible signs of God’s invisible presence in the physical world, all around us, every day. 

We believe these physical reminders of God in our daily life help us come to know God better. And we believe that we come to know God by learning about God’s creation. So what we do in school together is not just about building knowledge, passing tests, or preparing for high school, college, and career. These are obviously important, but as our students learn more about themselves, the world, and the people in it, they learn more about God, and they grow closer to God. Their learning doesn’t just prepare them for college; it readies them for heaven. So we seek to find God in all things. 

The difficult question we must reflect on right now: How do we find God in this virus?

Where do we find God right now, when we are forced to hide in our homes as the virus ravages our school communities, destroying livelihoods, sickening families, and taking loved ones?

On Good Friday, it occurs to me that the answer to this question, which many of us have been wrestling with for the past month, has been hiding in plain sight, in each of our Partnership School classrooms. 

The crucifixes that hang in every classroom are sacramentals that remind us of a historical event that we commemorate today. We believe today marks the anniversary of a day in human history when a man named Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and died on a cross. Three days later, on a Sunday morning, we believe that dead man came back to life. 

That resurrection – it changes everything. 

Imagine the apostles on the first Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Locked away in hiding, scared for their lives. Their best friend and leader had just been murdered. It was too dangerous for them to leave the locked room. A few days later, they hear a rumor that the tomb is empty. 

From that quarantined room springs our faith. From that cross, our only hope. Because we believe that a dead man came back to life. 

The resurrection is our greatest hope, and it is why we surround ourselves with crucifixes–to remind ourselves that suffering is temporary, and that our greatest hope comes through the cross. 

The Catholic worldview is one that sees God alive and at work when our students look through the lens of a microscope, in lines of a sonnet, in moments of history, or in interactions between teachers and students. But it is also a worldview that transforms the weapon that murdered Christ into a symbol of hope, and our primary way of visualizing God in our daily lives. 

If we can draw hope from Jesus’s death on the cross, then perhaps we can seek God in what is surely the strangest Holy Week in most of our lives. 

So how do we do that? 

Each of our quarantined lives are so different, depending on how the virus has affected us. For some, it has amplified the focus on Easter Sunday. For those, the anticipation to rush out of hiding to celebrate the resurrection together is unbearable. For others, this is a time of deep suffering. It already feels like 3 pm on Good Friday: there is darkness over the land, the earth quakes, the temple veil is split, and Christ has died. An empty tomb feels impossible and surely more than three days away. 

Because we are all in different locked rooms, we must pray for the grace of empathy. We believe that we are made for each other, so let’s ask others where they find God in this, and let’s listen before we share our own moments of grace in the time of coronavirus. 

On this Good Friday, we need to take time to find God in all things, in both the blessings and the crosses we bear. Let us take time to pray for eyes of faith during these difficult days. Perhaps pray to one of the eleven Apostles who hid in that locked upper room in fear. Or to Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, or Joanna – the women who found the stone rolled away from the empty tomb – for they knew courage to hope in a time of darkness. 

Each of us will find God in our own way, and it will be harder for some than others. But the point is that we must continue to seek God, especially on Good Friday–especially when we feel locked in an upper room. 

Christian Dallavis is Assistant Superintendent at Partnership Schools.