“The Lord is risen!” This is our cry during the 50 days of Easter. We celebrate life with joy: our present historical life and life eternal.
As we celebrate like Easter people, we know with confidence that death does not have the last word. In rising Jesus from the dead, God conquers death. Indeed, death does not defines us; life does!
Every year during Easter, Catholics have a new opportunity to celebrate the gift of life while contemplating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “The Lord is risen,” we proclaim. In contemplating his resurrection, we look forward to our own.
This particular year we find ourselves into the second year of the COVID-19 global pandemic. This is the second Easter when the celebration of life happens amid the conditions created by a virus that has affected everyone on our planet.
Millions of people have died worldwide because of the virus. Millions more mourn our loved ones who died and miss them dearly. Countless people of all ages will live the rest of their existences with the wounds of an illness that caught our world by surprise.
This year, however, things are different. A miracle has happened. Not as powerful and decisive as the miracle of the resurrection, yet a miracle. The scientific community has developed a cadre of vaccines that have the ability to bring the COVID-19 virus under some control.
Science placed at the service of life and the common good can prevent people from dying prematurely. When modern medicine mesmerizes us in addressing a major threat to human existence, we stand in awe. And awe is an invitation into the greatness of the divine.
The next question is, what do we do with the miracle? This applies to the miracle of the resurrection and the lesser miracle of the development of a series of vaccines to protect human life at this historical moment when we are confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic.
God’s salvation in Jesus Christ is a gift, yet it must be embraced. God wants us to make the gift our own. What drives the church’s evangelizing thrust in history is the conviction that we want people to have a profound experience with the risen Christ and embrace the gift of salvation.
There is something analogous about the gift of vaccines that protect our lives, the lives of those we love and the life of every other human being. We have them there, but we must receive them.
After more than a year in the current pandemic, we know that death is a real possibility because of the virus. This is neither a game nor a drill. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine — or not — can make the difference between living and dying; seeing others live or die.
Pardon me if I sound somewhat dramatic. However, I am concerned that many people in our society, and particularly in our own Catholic communities, seem to downplay the importance of vaccination during the present pandemic. Many reject vaccination altogether.
There is far too much misinformation. Too many conspiracy theories. Too much fearmongering. The antidote to all of this is good information and good pastoral outreach. The Vatican, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and nearly all credible Catholic organizations have endorsed COVID-19 vaccination as morally acceptable and a priority to protect life and the common good.
If we care about life, we have a responsibility to do what is possible to protect it. Our discernment must involve more than our personal views. In the spirit of Easter, as we contemplate the risen Lord, allow me a simple invitation: Arise, receive the vaccine, save lives.
Hosffman Ospino is professor of theology and religious education at Boston College.
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