How to "Empty Your Tomb"
Alleluia, He is risen! Death is defeated and the grave is no more. I hope you all had a blessed, safe, and healthy Easter Sunday. I know I was really looking forward to Easter and hoping it would shine some light on what's been an admittedly dark time for us. I felt a real spark of joy, but it's okay if you didn't! We're all handling things in our own way right now. In a way, we're all in the Tomb with Jesus.
Being in quarantine is definitely like being in the Tomb. I don't mean we're dead, so don't go calling me morbid! Think about it though, we're stuck inside, isolated, and there's probably some darkness around us. Being cooped up like this can bring out both the best and the worst in us, depending on our mental state, routine, and outlook. Times of stress and uncertainty can be especially hard on those who have mental health conditions, so let's keep them in prayer in a special way.
Whether you have a mental health condition or not, quarantine probably has you feeling a little down. You miss seeing your friends (hey, even introverts need SOME human contact!), you miss your routine of going to work, you miss mass, etc. etc. There's a lot we wish we could do right now that we can't, and that can make us feel like we're in the Tomb with Jesus.
So what do we do about it? We know that Jesus didn't stay in the Tomb, and that He showed His full power and glory by rising on Easter Sunday. If we're in the Tomb with Him now, that means we will rise with Him as well, right? Right. We will indeed rise with Christ when He comes again in glory. We'll also rise out of our houses once this quarantine is lifted. But I want to talk about how we can rise out of our "mental Tombs."
Because we're in this enforced physical "tomb" of our houses, we can create mental tombs for ourselves as well. We can fall into despair, hopelessness, and relentless negativity. We can tell ourselves that everything is awful and that it's never going to get better. We can stress ourselves out by reading every case total, every scrap of bad news, every opinion on how great or terrible a job the government has done handling this. I am guilty of all of these things, and there is no shame in admitting that.
There are numerous studies out there showing that patients afflicted with disease and injury recover quicker and more fully if they keep a positive outlook during their treatment and rehab processes. This is not much different from our situation. Our outlook and mindset, while not 100% predictive, can greatly influence our mental state during this time.
I wouldn't be writing this if it was easy. It is often so simple and quick to allow ourselves to despair and become negative about this situation. We are engaged in a battle for our own hearts and minds, and we have to literally FIGHT the Devil's attempts to steal our hope and happiness. So how do we do it? How do we fend off these constant attacks on our mind and spirit?
The first thing to do is to stay aggressively positive. I, for one, have avoided the news like the Plague (no pun intended) for the last 3 weeks or so. If something that directly impacts me happens, such as an extension of the quarantine by Governor Lamont or an extension of the suspension of public masses by the Archdiocese, that information will get to me. I don't have to seek it out. Fr. Mike Schmitz said it best: "Knowing more won't help."
I get it, that's a hard thing to internalize! But it's true. Knowing exactly how many people are sick in every county, how many have died in every country, and knowing the amount of medical equipment that each hospital needs will not help you feel better. Sure, the information is out there on the news. But since when have we needed to watch everything that's out there? On the contrary, as Catholics, we avoid certain things because we know they won't bring us closer to God.
Another good practice to get into is not looking in the rear-view mirror. I read an article by a doctor about the health benefits of a positive attitude. She mentioned that she had been in a really serious car accident and had to fight for years to get back to full physical function. She said that the thing that kept her going was not looking back on what she had lost, but instead celebrating every little victory in the aftermath.
It is undeniable that we have lost a lot to this disease. I have two little sisters who are both seniors (one in high school, the other in college), and my heart aches for the loss of their last few months with their friends. That was a huge time of processing for me, and I know how important it is. We've lost connections with others, the comfort of routines, and the freedom to do what we want. Some have even lost their lives. I am not proposing that we ignore what we have lost.
Instead, let's not dwell on it. We've all lost something, some more than others. But will fixating on what we've had to forego bring about anything good? Absolutely not. On the contrary, it will bring us into that mental Tomb ever deeper. Instead, let's celebrate the little victories: the small steps we're making back towards "normalcy" and the changes we're making for the better.
One thing I've been so encouraged to see is many churches being forced to embrace technology and digital communication. We are blessed to have such a tech-savvy parish (and pastor) here at St. Bridget of Sweden, but many are not. However, most every church has found a way to live stream mass and perhaps even started social media accounts they didn't have. This is something the Church has needed to do for decades, and this crazy situation is pushing the faithful forward in this regard.
Maybe you're spending more time with family, maybe the monsoon yesterday made your grass really pop today, maybe you finally have time to finish that book (or show, or game) that you've been meaning to tackle for months now. Who knows. We ALL have little things to celebrate, and it's important to lean into those right now. Talk about them. Be grateful for them. Focus on them rather than the darkness and what we've lost, because that is how we'll get through this.
Wow, this turned out longer than I meant it to! Maybe that's God telling me this post is important. Bottom line, it is so important for us to rise from the Tomb with Jesus. The Devil is fighting with everything he's got to pull you into darkness and despair. Don't let him win. Show him that your faith, your life, your entire self is imbued with the power of Savior. Fight to stay positive, fight to defeat hopelessness, and fight to look ahead to when we can all be together again. I can promise you'll feel a whole lot better.
I wish you all a blessed Easter season, and I look forward to seeing you in person again. Until then, in Christ,