It seems as though we are in an in-between place…
It seems as though we are in an in- between place between Lockdown and some further loosening of the Covid restrictions. Vaccination programmes are progressing. The Covid figures in the UK are steadily lower. It is likely more restrictions will be lifted on May 17th, and June 21, which may or may not make your life less restrictive. We may be able to come out of our houses and see people and places we haven’t seen for a long time. For some it will be a release. For others it might seem quite an anxious time. Walking out of the door, seeing other people – whether friends or strangers, sharing a pavement or shop or cafe space may seem a little daunting if we have been confined to home, garden or local spaces.
The period between Easter and Pentecost seems an interim, in-between period for us and the followers of Jesus in the Scriptures.
Living in 2021, we read the New Testament unfolding, knowing that although Jesus died, he was then resurrected and ascended to heaven. Then the Holy Spirit, the great Enabler, Inspirer and Courage-Maker came at Pentecost. The Apostles (or Disciples, in Fr Nicholas King’s translation notes, which includes a greater number of unnamed women and men who had followed Jesus), were inspired and emboldened to speak out, some to work miracles, preach, travel and build up small Christian communities, despite Roman occupation and fear of the Jewish authorities and of diseases like leprosy, one of the plagues of the time.
During the in- between period before the Ascension and Pentecost, there were a number of sightings of Jesus, but Jesus’ appearance had somehow changed so he was not usually immediately recognised. Once recognised, people could see he bore the signs of the cross and ate fish – so was not a ghost.
He could still teach and encourage them. Initially, Mary Magdalene had literally tried to hold onto him. He had discouraged that as he was no longer physically and constantly going to be in their lives: living and working with them, in the same way as before… They were going to have to continue the work and proclaim the Good News without his human presence alongside them. They huddled together inside an Upper Room before Pentecost as they were uncertain and afraid about what would happen next.
Jesus’ relationship with his Disciples changed to a deeper, spiritual one, at Pentecost and they began to face the outside world with confidence, hope and less anxiety.
I sometimes wonder how often they regretted not really understanding so many things he was trying to tell them about God before the Crucifixion, about the Eucharist, the meaning of his parables and so many other things. How frequently did Christ say he would “die” and about his plans for them and others and they didn’t understand him? This in- between time was a time when they could recognise him, regret what they hadn’t understood, be forgiven, reflect, regroup and recover before Pentecost.
Like the Disciples in this in- between time between Easter and, Pentecost and for us the hoped for further easing of Covid restrictions in May and June, some of us may be traumatised by recent events, bereaved, isolated and anxious about the future. We may also be relieved and hopeful for the further unlocking of Covid restrictions.
We may each feel all kinds of emotions which can vary depending on our experience, outlook and what has happened to us, our families and friends.
Like Mary Magdalene’s initial reaction, we may want to hold on to life as before. We may need to touch the reality of the new situation like Thomas who needed to experience seeing Jesus and touch the new reality for himself. Or, like Peter be given the chance to make amends and seek forgiveness for denying Jesus three times. He was now allowed to say he loved Jesus three times. We may have been left with betrayals, regrets, unkind words and deeds and other unfinished business that we have been unable to resolve because of Covid restrictions. We too are given another chance!
We too are given Pentecost strength and inspiration to go out and build up our and other people’s lives in whatever way we can.
We all have gifts that we can share by phone or card even if we remain restricted by our circumstances….
Transition times can be lonely, anxious and periods of struggle and self -reflection. They can also be powerful places to prepare for new possibilities, spiritual gifts and joy.
Some parts of our past life may have changed because of Covid, and we may be grieving for what we have lost and suffered. Other parts of the world are suffering deeply now. We all try to believe that this new reality as we move forward, through, and hopefully, come safely out of the Covid restrictions, may become a time of settling down, recovery and some hope for us all.
Pippa Bonner, May 2021.