(RNS) — Easter is a time to celebrate the spirit of renewal and the promise of brighter days to come. It reminds us each spring of the simple, powerful truth described in the Gospel of John: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
The message of Easter carries special significance this year, as we continue to lift ourselves out of a long, dark winter brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 550,000 chairs sit empty around the tables of American homes today — each one a reminder of the unbearable loss we have incurred. Lives and livelihoods have been interrupted at tremendous cost, our children have lost precious time in school with friends and teachers, plans and dreams have been shattered, and for the second year in a row many of us are celebrating Easter apart from family and friends.
We know that the crisis is not yet over. Too many families are still going without the familiar comforts of the season. The virus still threatens us. And many of us still feel the longing and loneliness of distance from those we love. But the traditions of Holy Week remind us of the journey from sorrow to salvation — that faith, hope and love can lead us out of the darkness and into the light.
As Easter heralds the return of spring, we see signs of hope all around us. More than 100 million vaccine shots have been administered in fewer than 9 weeks, with more Americans joining the ranks of the vaccinated every day. Families are getting the financial relief they need to take a breath. Businesses are beginning to recover. And more and more of our children’s schools are opening up safely once again.
The crisis is not over — we cannot let our guard down, and we still have work to do — but there is hope in the darkness.
For Christians, there is no greater symbol of hope and possibility than Easter — and in this season, it is our responsibility to reflect the light we see by working to ensure a better year ahead. We have a duty to care for all those who are hurting: to provide food to the millions of Americans who are hungry; to keep a roof over the heads of families pushed to the brink; to treat those on the front lines of this crisis with dignity, and to deliver them greater relief and peace of mind.
And we each have a duty — both spiritual and patriotic — to get vaccinated when it is our turn, and to encourage our friends and loved ones to do the same so that we can beat this virus and hasten the day when we can celebrate holidays together once again.
As we commemorate this holiest of days, let us recommit ourselves to the lessons of Easter. Let us love and care for our neighbors — as Jesus did, and as we’ve seen so many ordinary, extraordinary people do over the course of this difficult year. Let us all do our part to end this pandemic by wearing masks, maintaining a safe distance and getting vaccinated so that we can save countless lives and return fully to our communities, our congregations and the people we love. And let us continue to seek out the light around us and help it grow.
On this Easter, Jill and I wish your family and all families health, hope, joy and the peace of God.
(Joe Biden is president of the United States. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)