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Happy Easter in a Pandemic–with the Words of Erri de Luca and Don Tonino

Easter this year means knowing that we’re going through the deserts of life, crossing over towards freedom and fullness of being

La parata di Pasqua del 2019 a Manhattan (Foto di Terry W. Sanders)

The growth of infections, people continuing to die, lockdowns, children and adolescents resigned and saddened, adults concerned about the future, loss of jobs, economic and environmental crises, wars, natural cataclysms, and not least of all, lost and broken relationships. This is such a mournful scenario, not a Paschal one! And yet it is not so; it does not have to be like that.

For Christians, Easter is completing and retracing the journey of the forty years that Abraham’s children endured in the desert; it is the daily reminder of their “passage” from their slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land.  It is a very long and very difficult journey that the Bible describes, highlighting infidelity, fragility, fear, hunger and thirst. But it is also a journey in which the God of Israel always responds with help to every difficulty that his people encounter.

Easter this year, more than ever, means, becoming aware that we are journeying through the deserts of life, walking towards the freedom and fullness of life.

It is in fact, walking step by step through difficult and arid lands, but lands in which there is no lack of oasis of hope and courage, from which to get up and start again, driven by the desire for life, love and faith and the desire to want to leave a legacy of a better future to our children; a future which is more humane, more just, more in harmony with creation. A world in which one feels as “Brothers” (“Fratelli tutti”: Pope Francis).

La Madonnina di Milano, illustration by Antonella Martino

If in truth Easter is a Jewish and Christian feast, its power of love and life should not prevent it from involving all men and women who not knowingly are living the spirit of the Beatitudes.

The Italian writer, Erri De Luca, who is an honest, but restless non-believer and seeker of truth, tells us this and demonstrates it to us:

Erri De Luca (Foto di Terry W. Sanders)

“Passover is the voice of the Hebrew verb ‘pèsah’, to pass. It is not a holiday for residents, but for migrants who hurry to travel. As a non-believer I see people of faith like this, not implanted in a center of certainty but constantly moving on the slopes. Every Easter, I collide with the double news of the sacred scriptures, the exodus from Egypt and the Roman gallows of the cross which is planted over Jerusalem. They are two openings into the unknown. The first is a dip in the desert to grab another land and a new freedom. The second is the somersault beyond the body and a life extinguished going towards the most essential resurrection.      […] Thus, let Easter be overflowing for you who build pathways where there are walls and barriers, who forge trails, who jump through obstacles, a courier at all costs, an athlete of the word peace.”

It is therefore up to Christians, good and honest men to open roads, build bridges, tear down walls, jump and run to seek and bring news of life, of resurrection, news of deserts that bloom, of new freedoms and of life that is born and reborn. All this must be done especially today, in this time of Covid.

For Easter, let us give a gift, a special wish: to ourselves, to those we love, to those we do not love and to those who do not love us; let us convey this to all people by writing and saying with our hearts, the words that a great son of Puglia, Bishop Tonino Bello, wrote:

Don Tonino Bello

“Hoping that my wish, instead of reaching you with the polished vocabulary of the occasion, would arrive with a handshake, with a deep look, with a wordless smile! I would like to remove from your soul, like from the entrance of a sepulcher, the boulder that obstructs your freedom, that does not open up your joy, that blocks your peace. The word ‘Courage!’ May I pronounce it slowly to make you understand how much love I intend to charge it with. The resurrection of Jesus Christ, our indestructible Love, is the paradigm of our destinies. The Resurrection; not the destruction. Not the catastrophe. Not the planetary holocaust. Not the end. Not our falling into nothingness. […] The Lord is risen precisely to tell you, that in the face of those who decide to ‘love’, there is no death that holds; there is no tomb that closes; there is no boulder or sepulchral that does not roll away. […] The road always comes before you and the winds blow behind you and the dew always wets the grass on which you place your steps. And the smile always shines on your face. And the tears that come out of your eyes are only tears of happiness. And should they be tears of bitterness and pain, there is always someone ready to wipe them away. May the sun come to shine powerfully into your home, to bring much light, much hope and much warmth”.

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