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Called to Abundant Life Columns

Life in the Upper Room, a paradigm for the pandemic

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By divine design, the Feast of Pentecost occurred on May 31, the point of transition to a new month and a gradual return to a sense of normal on the tails of the coronavirus global pandemic. After three months of the New York pause, we have been not unlike Mary and the apostles gathered in fear in the Upper Room, living fearfully and waiting for healing and a burst of divine love and energy to catapult us out of the misery we have all faced on a variety of levels.

As we move through the month of June and a new normal begins to evolve, let’s consider how the experience of pandemic was an Upper Room experience for all of us. The limitations of the pandemic have made our homes upper room, a school of learning characterized by uncertainty.

The Upper Room is of great significance in Scripture, the life of Jesus and the Church. Located in Jerusalem, also known as the Cenacle, the Upper Room is considered by sacred tradition to be the place where the apostles stayed, prepared the Passover meal, and celebrated the Last Supper with Jesus.

According to the Gospel of John, it was in the Upper Room that Jesus washed the feet of the disciples during the Last Supper, giving them a pattern of loving service to embody in their own lives. Here Jesus reflected loving friendship to his followers and called for life in union with Him and the Father. Although the doors were locked, Jesus entered the Upper Room on Easter evening and revealed His risen presence to the Apostles. Fearing persecution, the Upper Room was the place where the disciples and Mary sheltered in place before Pentecost.

The experience of sheltering in place has been our experience with social distancing, quarantine and having to take all kinds of protective measures to safeguard our health. This has made our homes an upper room and made us aware of the pain that is within and around us. The loss and sickness of loved ones, shortages of basic items, the loss of jobs and uncertainty of how to get through this pandemic have placed many at their wits end. The restlessness, anxiety and anger that we have all experienced have given us quarantine fatigue. Its onset has led us to the question, “When will this end?”

With the arrival of summer, our upper room experience is gradually coming to an end. There is still time to enter the sacred upper rooms within our homes. Here we can have a real experience of Christ. In the weeks ahead, during the phases of reopening, the events that occurred in the Upper Room bid us to remember that we can do what was done there. Our upper rooms are places to model with gentleness the love and service of Jesus Christ and to experience the risen presence of Christ penetrating our hearts with the message of resurrection. Finally, our upper rooms are the place to receive God’s Holy Spirit. Hungry for the Bread of Life, we are soon to emerge from our upper room. In the gatherings to come, let’s set the world on fire.

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