Editor’s note: This Sunday, Christians here and around the world celebrate Easter in an unknown way. The coronavirus pandemic prevents us from coming together for religious services, rituals and family meals typical of this day. People of all faiths face illness, isolation and disruption of their daily lives.
We have invited religious leaders from central New York from many spiritual traditions to offer messages of hope during these difficult times. Thanks to them and to InterFaith Works of Central New York to coordinate their submissions.
“The presence of God with us is the source of our hope”
Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe, the episcopal diocese of central New York:
“God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God and God abides in them. … We love because he first loved us.” (I John 4: 16,19)
It is a sacred time of the year for the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Our respective celebrations of deliverance, resurrection and penance renew our sacred bond with God and with each other.
For Christians, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is good news: the creative power of God is the source of all life and extends beyond human sin and even death itself. The power of God’s love to recreate, to do all new things, is the source of our hope. It is especially comforting to know that the power of the Holy Spirit of God cannot be “taken out of crisis”, each time we love our neighbors as ourselves, each time we offer forgiveness instead of hate, whenever we act with love and without fear, God abides with us.
As people of all faiths, our lives are not defined by the challenges we face but by the loyalty with which we meet these challenges. With faith greater than our fear, we have courage, love and deep hope; God’s presence with us is the source of our hope. And remember that hope is not wishful thinking; hope is a fundamental belief that has the power to transform us and bring us peace.
All over the world, it is a liminal moment when all of humanity is experiencing the same crisis at the same time. Whether in Italy or Kenya, Germany or Belize, New York or California, the COVID-19 pandemic forces us to distance ourselves socially and to act with integrity for the safety of all. From those who insulate at home, to truck drivers delivering goods, to all medical caregivers, to civic leaders, we are all part of a global response.
In one of our episcopal liturgies, we have a prayer that refers to our planet as “this fragile Earth, our native island”. I cherish the vulnerability named in this offer because it is really an invitation to a conscious life. The whole world is our home and when we love each other, we experience the permanent presence of God which is more powerful than death, calling us to renewal, to love and to life.
May the power of God and the love of God remain with you today and always.
“We are an Easter people!”
Bishop Douglas Lucia, Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse:
“Do not be afraid” and “Peace be with you”. These are greetings that Jesus used with his disciples on the first day of Easter. Today, in a refrain that resonates in time and space, we are invited to take up the new song that Jesus Christ brought in his resurrection from the dead. “We are an Easter people!”
This hope of resurrection illuminates a world whose light has been obscured by suffering and death. The earthquake in Matthew’s account of the resurrection shows that Jesus Christ came to shake us and wake us from our sleep. Furthermore, he invites us, who would be his disciples, to travel with him and to proclaim the good news of the resurrection.
This year, we may not have been able to carry burning candles during our Easter services or sing our happy “Hallelujah!” together, but in this Easter period and beyond, we can bring the light of the risen Christ to everyone we meet along the way. This commission of the Risen One himself sends us to untie the links and unlock the doors so that the wonderful love that springs from this old robust cross can be felt by those we meet in the public square, masks or no masks!
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed our lives, but our prayer is also that it has given us a new vision. A vision of a global family whose primary concern is the near or distant neighbor. In this light, we send Pesach greetings to our Jewish brothers and sisters, praying that the Passover miracle will continue in your hearts forever and that your light will shine this Passover season. Soon, too, our Muslim brothers and sisters will welcome their holy month of Ramadan. We pray that this time their hearts will be filled with peace, harmony and joy; and that they too will shine the divine blessings of the Almighty.
To all people of good will, we assure you of our prayers for you and your loved ones. We take this opportunity to express special gratitude to all members of our community and beyond who have taken the front line in the fight against the coronavirus. To our civic leaders, health professionals, pharmacists, emergency personnel, grocers, food service workers, clergy and many others, we thank you for everything you do to try to improve our lives these days. test and pain.
May the Lord’s blessings guide you, protect you and be with you at Easter and always!
The power of supplication and hope
Imam Mohammed ElFiki, Central New York Islamic Society:
God instructs us in the Great Quran: “Call me and I will answer you.” (40:60) He reassures our hearts by saying, “Certainly, difficulties come with ease. Certainly, this “difficulty” is accompanied by a “plus” facility. “(94: 5-6) He describes the resolution of a difficult experience for the companions of the Prophet Muhammad after they turned to God:” When the earth, despite its immensity, seemed to close in on them, when their very soul closed in on them. When they realized that the only refuge from God was with him, he turned to them out of mercy. (9: 118) The prophet Moses in a difficult situation begged, “My Lord, I urgently need everything you can send me good.” (28:24) Right after that, he was told, “Don’t be afraid! You are now safe. “(28:25) In his distress, the prophet Job cried out to his Lord:” Suffering really afflicted me, but you are the most merciful of the merciful. “(21:83) In the next verse, God says : “We answered him and took his suffering away from him.” (21:84) The prophet Jacob commanded his sons, “Do not despair of the mercy of God – only the disbelievers despair of the mercy of God.” (12:87) When the good news was told after that , he said, “Did I not tell you that I have the knowledge of God that you do not have?” (12:96) Let us all turn to God and be sure that he will never leave us fall.
“Listen to God in this season of calm”
Archbishop Colette Matthews-Carter: Senior Pastor, Zion Hill World Harvest Baptist Church Inc., Prelate Covenant Fellowship of Churches (CFOC)
“Rest easy, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Some believe these words are spoken by God to the nations of the world to “end the war.” Psalms are known to have incredible power and comfort. From the treasury of King David, this psalm gives us a word of encouragement for this season. This word calls for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, suffering to end, pain and death to end, and the mighty stillness of God to speak to the world of healing and hope.
The words “to be motionless” are defined as not moving and being silent. Many believe that God is the friend of calm, the friend of calm and the friend of calm. When all the noise is gone, then it is only God who often speaks in a small, calm voice. Let us be free to listen to God in this season of calm (quarantine). May God speak to our hearts of comfort and peace in the midst of this catastrophic crisis.
Let the small, calm voice of a sovereign and omnipresent God guide us through the trials and uncertainties of the day. Sometimes the noise from outside drowns our ability to hear God, to feel the Spirit of God and to commune with the sacred presence. Even nature honors silence. Trees, shrubs, flowers and grass grow in peace; the sun, the moon and the stars communicate in complete silence. Silence is powerful and redemptive.
By honoring stillness, we learn to trust God. “Be still and know that I am God” is more than a simple expression; it is a state of existence. And in this season, existence has become a survival. But we must not let our desire to survive dissolve our humanity and our need for spiritual sustenance. May the calm and stillness of Calvary allow us to triumph over the darkness of this moment on the threshold of a monumental hope!
This week we call saint
Reverend Suzi Harriff, New York State American Baptist Churches:
This week we were supposed to be together – rejoicing at the Seder, walking the last steps of Jesus from death to resurrection, celebrating the super moon, filling children’s baskets with candy and toys. … yet we cannot be together. So we cry with the psalmist: “Why am I discouraged? Why am I restless? Why am I in turmoil, distressed, depressed and tired? “We are all because we are exhausted – from loneliness and worry, from fear and uncertainty, from isolation and separation from our routines and loved ones, from the loss of our security feeling.
Sarah Bourns, in her poem “Rona”, tells how we have all been exposed by the virus – revealing our addiction to comfort, our obsession with control, our compulsion to hoard and our selfishness – and that too often our gods have been health, self-importance, false security and misplaced confidence. But now we can choose to replace these false idols with hope, grace and compassion. We can change our “I” to “we” and make choices and decisions based not on ourselves and our preferences, but on the priorities of the community, to protect and care for the other.
In this week known as “holy” in my Christian tradition, we remember that the journey through the valley of the shadow of death ended on an empty tomb, where sadness, sorrow and death were overcome by joy of the resurrection. We can all see a new life reflected in the world around us when spring returns. We can read in the Qur’an of Him whose mercy encompasses all things. We can echo the last words of the psalmist: “Hope in God, for I will sing praise again and rejoice”. In the midst of everything, the message of resurrection and rebirth resonates through our community and our world. Together, let’s harvest hope.
“Be close to our cry”
Rabbi Andrew Pepperstone, Beth Sholom-Chevra Shas Congregation:
A prayer for the days of COVID-19 of the Jewish liturgy
(Based on Numbers sources, Shabbat morning service and weekday service for fasting days)
God, source of the breath of all life
You bought us from narrow places,
And got us out of slavery.
During the famine, you fed us.
You have taken care of us during times of plenty.
You saved us from the sword,
And saved us from the plague,
And of perverse and lasting diseases, you raised us.
Even to this day,
Your compassion helped us,
and your kindness never left us,
and eternal, you will never leave us.
During these days of distress,
Answer us, Lord, answer us,
In these days of great anxiety and worry,
Because we are in great distress.
Do not consider our wickedness;
Do not hide your face from us and do not ignore our prayers.
Please be close to our cry;
Please treat us kindly and comfort us;
Before you even call, answer us,
As it says:
“And it will be that before I call,
I will answer them,
and while they are still talking,
I will hear.
For Thou, O LORD, answer in times of trouble.
You redeem and deliver at every moment of misfortune and distress.
You are generous, eternal, who responds to times of distress.
“We will all learn from it”
His Eminence Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche; presented by Rinpoche’s student, Madalyn Smith, head of interfaith work for the New York Center Leaders’ Round Table
I think that this Covid-19 pandemic will not be difficult to overcome if we are all united, if we all follow a social distancing and if we stay at home until we can smooth the curve. Right now, we can pray that everyone will be free from the suffering of this virus. Let everyone be free from anxiety and fear, let everyone realize the preciousness of human life and never take life for granted. May everyone respect all beings equally and have love and compassion for all sentient beings. Right now, this pandemic is very difficult for all of us, but that too will pass, and we will be able to recover and make sense of it, we will all learn from it. We must take care of everyone equally, as we would like to take care of ourselves. “
“We remember our common humanity”
Tim Saka, Chairman of the Board of Directors, CNY RISE Center:
In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Most Merciful.
With the global coronavirus pandemic, we are once again faced with the fragility of our lives, and again we remember our common humanity; that the peoples of this world are our brothers and sisters.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “O people! Be treated. Because, there is no disease that Allah created, except that Allah also created his treatment. “
One of the 99 names of Allah is “Shafi” which means The Healer. We pray to Allah with the name of Shafi to heal those who are sick with the virus. We also pray for doctors, nurses and health workers during this crisis.
We would also like to remember the story of Prophet Job (pbuh) who suffered from an intense illness. In the Holy Quran it says:
“Truly! We found him patient. What an excellent servant for Allah! In truth, he never came often to repent us!” (Koran 38:44)
The prophet Job (phub) was always patient throughout his illness and never complained. One day, his wounds reached his tongue and he feared that he could no longer pray to Allah. So he prayed:
“Inborn Rabbi massaniyaddurru waanta arhamurrrahimeen”
“Oh Lord, evil has afflicted me, and You are the Most Merciful.”
After such a prayer, Allah restored his health and healed him.
Today, we join Prophet Job (pbuh) with the same prayer. While millions of people are infected with this virus and thousands are dead, we raise our hands to Allah and we say:
“Oh Lord, evil has afflicted us and you are the most merciful. Please heal us, Ya Shafi.
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