Should I stay or Should I Go?

Looking at Family Gatherings for Easter Sunday

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Christ taught us that “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend.” (John 15:13). This means, therefore, that the converse of this would be true. There is no greater hubris than to risk the lives of friends for one’s own personal pleasure or for pride. This is a philosophical question that none of us would have ever thought would dictate our families plans as we prepare to celebrate the Resurrection.

However, we do face the question of whether it is proper to spend Easter with our families, or celebrate in our own house to avoid spreading the disease. To begin with, my friends, this is not a conversation on the government’s mandated social distancing. If you would like to debate that, please check out this previous article on the subject. This question that we are faced with is the question of logic and love.

I believe that all of you love your families, though that love may differ in its manifestation, it is still there. Many people are saying “I love them enough to take the risk!” That is all well and good. Do you love them enough to deny yourself the pleasure of their company for their safety? This is really what this dilemma comes down to.

The Arguements

I have heard three arguments on why people should still get together. The first is “Christ commanded us to do this in memory of him.” The statement is partially true. Christ ordered us, as his second to last global commandment, to celebrate the Eucharist. This is important.

However, unless you have a priest in your family, most families do not celebrate consecration during their Easter feast. The ability to celebrate the Eucharist, can still be experienced, if but spiritually. There is a prayer for the faithful which has been created for those who are unable to attend mass/service in person. It goes:

“My Lord Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire to receive you into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there, and unite myself wholly to you. Never Permit me to be separated from You. Amen”

Prayer for the Faithful

Since this prayer is “pre-reformation” it should be a prayer that any of the faithful can enjoy as they are separated from their church buildings but never from their churches.

The second argument that I am hearing for why people intend to meet on Easter is that God will protect them. This belief is true in the sense that God loves us an protects us. However we are also told not to tempt the Lord. Remember, it is the Devil, not Jesus who took Christ to the Temple in Jerusalem and said, “Throw yourself down from here. For it is written ‘he will command his angels regarding you to guard you carefully.” (Luke 4:9-10). To this, Jesus reminds the Devil, and us, “Do not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” (Luke 4:11). God does love us and protect us, but we have the freewill to choose whether to protect our families or not.

The third argument that I hear often is that “This is a family tradition, it is the only time I see [Insert Family Member here.]” I honestly feel for people who are in this situation. Remember, however, that if you choose to go to them and they are out of state (or they come to you), the disease may come with them (or with you). Is seeing them this one time important enough to make it the last time you see them?

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When you hold a grandchild, niece or nephew in your arms, is it important enough that you may be the cause of this being their last Easter (or yours)? Love sometimes means denying yourself to make someone else’s life better. This is a challenging temptation for many people to overcome. This last “excuse” also should be a wakeup call to many families.

Call for Common Sense

If it is so important to see your family on Easter, why is it any less important any other day of the year? We live in a digital age, we can speak (and even see) our friends and family any time we want, through the phone and video chats. This means that our reason for not seeing them is because we do not “make” the time to see them. Grandparents who do not have computers can have a simple tablet ($ 25-second hand), that can allow them to see their families.

Those in other countries can keep in touch with Skype or Zoom. All it takes is a few minutes to set it up for them. Is it our pride or those minutes that separate us from keeping in touch with family? This weekend, we are called to celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we must do this with great fanfare and pomp, sometimes we must do this in the silence of our hearts. The first few Easters, the Apostles were in basements, catacombs and private houses. If they went out, they would be killed and their message would have died with them. Now today we face a crisis where the faithful may be killed if we ignore the commonsense God gave us. This time we are saving ourselves from a virus, not from a sword.

Short-Term Pain, Long-Term Gain

Christ said that the greatest commandment was to “Love your God with your whole heart.” The second greatest is “Love one another as I have loved you.” Christ did not have the apostles die with Him on the cross. He protected them until they were filled with the Spirit, and joined him on their own crosses (literally and figuratively).

The question we are faced with, is whether we love our families enough not to go see them. Is our love is great enough? Will we suffer the pain of being separated from them for the good of keeping them alive and healthy? I will end with this, Christ asked, “Who among us would turn away from their family out of love?” (Luke 14:25-27). This may be a moment in time where staying away will allow you to be with your family again in the future. Being stronger with the knowledge of how important they really are to you. Have a blessed Easter.

Christopher W Smithmyer
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