By Mother Agnes Mary Donovan
The Lord is risen! As we celebrate the resurrection, the Lord’s words to his disciples in the upper room resound with particular poignancy this year: “I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be” (Jn 14:3).
These words take on a greater significance in the context of the ongoing global pandemic and the difficult experience of separation and distancing from friends and family, co-workers and loved ones. The pain of loneliness and isolation has increased our awareness of our need for community and challenges Sartre’s — and modernity’s — provocative proposal that “hell is other people.”
Separation from others has drained the life and joy from our lives, and Easter is a reminder, each year, that we are made for others. Each Easter, we remember the radical love of God for us, revealed to us through Jesus Christ and his willingness to enter into our fallen condition, to bear with us the painful result of sin — separation from God and others.
Made in the image and likeness of God, who is a communion of persons, this truth is part of our spiritual DNA and is reflected in the very structure of our bodies: We are made for relationship.
The unforgettable images of the abandoned and empty squares, churches and piazzas across the world last spring were disconcerting, leaving many with an increased sense of futility, hopelessness, sadness.
In stark contrast, each Easter we are presented with another image of emptiness, but one which brings a thrill of hope to our hearts: the empty tomb, which confirms for us that it is “not good for man to be alone.”
While there are many stories of sadness and heartbreak resulting from the pandemic, there are also many stories of hope and new life. As Sisters of Life, we walk with women who are pregnant and who are, many times, carrying the sorrow of abandonment and rejection due to the new life they have received.
Sophie (name changed for anonymity) was one of these heroic women who experienced an unexpected pregnancy in her teens. For 13 years, she lived without her daughter, until the pandemic hit and she realized how precious life and relationships are.
She shared with us the question on her heart: “What if I only had a month left to live, Sister? I didn’t want to live it without my daughter.” She began to change her life, to embrace her motherhood, and for the first time her daughter was able to live with her.
As the Second Vatican Council noted in “Gaudium et Spes,” authentic love, both the giving and receiving love through a sincere gift of self, is the fulfillment and meaning of each of our lives — and is possible with Christ.
Filled with the love of God, which has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, we are given the assurance of being infinitely loved and capable of loving without limits.