by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter and the other Apostles. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said,
“Men and brethren, I have received notice from the authorities that we are in violation of an executive order from our procurator, Pontius Pilate. We are about to be indicted for not observing social distancing here in this upper room. I have consulted with our attorneys and our risk-management team, as well as the Roman Center for Disease Control. Here is the best advice I can get.
“As you know, this room is constructed to hold a hundred and twenty persons, but the executive order from the Pontius Pilate says we must reduce this number to ten or so, and these ten must wear masks at all times, in order to prevent infection. Meanwhile, please, refrain from hugging one another, and thou shalt not shake hands nor kiss icons.
“Yeah verily, I am sore vexed to mention the point, and my spirit faints within me, but there is nothing much we can do about it. As you know, there is sickness all over the Holy City, by reason of this virus, which apparently came here from Moab.
“We are no worse-off than anybody else. We good citizens are all in this together; everybody is closed down, from the hewer of wood to the bearer of water, both carpenter and she that sews blue fabric, tentmaker and publican together.
“We Christians must do our bit, because whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers like Pontius Pilate are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
“In addition, we are currently a cause of scandal to our neighbors, inasmuch as we have been singing hymns, a practice specifically prohibited in Pilate’s executive order. According to the Roman Center for Disease Control, singing is particularly dangerous in the transmission of this virus.
“And as for you women, I know how you suffer in special way. You are all wearing veils, inasmuch as the hair salons are all closed because of the pandemic.
“Indeed, I regret we are currently forced to eat meat sacrificed to idols, since the kosher shops are all closed. And the closest stores are more than a Sabbath’s day journey.
“Please, do not blame me. I am just a lowly Apostle, and I can do nothing. I have no authority to defy the legitimate civil government, because such defiance would be a violation of God’s will. For Pontius Pilate, even in this executive order, is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject to God’s ordinance, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.
“Let us, therefore, bear up patiently, showing ourselves to be good and obedient citizens. Yeah, I know that you have been looking forward to the coming of the Holy Spirit, but it can’t happen this year. Let us, then—most of us—depart from this upper room and go, each man to his tent and to his vineyard. Who knows who whether we have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
“We cannot, for the sake of conscience, have Pentecost. Gather in your homes (but for heaven’s sake, do not, I say, do not kiss the icons) and celebrate a virtual Pentecost. We will show ourselves be, above all, good and docile citizens.
“So, then, let us put on our masks and go out quietly, not disturbing our neighbors, and being careful to stay six feet apart. If and when the government thinks it is safe to do so, we will assemble here again for the coming of the Holy Spirit.”
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