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So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. ~ Matthew 27:59–60

About a year ago, the United States Surgeon General warned of an epidemic of loneliness. He described acute isolation as significantly more widespread than previously imagined and as equally or more dangerous to Americans’ health as smoking and obesity. I found myself thinking about this epidemic of loneliness while reading Matthew 27:57–66, which describes Joseph of Arimathea wrapping Jesus’ body in cloth, laying the body in a tomb, rolling a stone to shut the tomb and walking away.

Jesus is isolated and shut away, separated by a wall of cold stone.

In Christian tradition, Holy Saturday commemorates the time when Jesus descended into the depths of hell. I recently saw a dramatic, medieval Christian painting portraying Jesus entering hell through the open mouth of a crocodile-like demon. As a person in the twenty-first century, though, I imagine this scene somewhat less literally. Today, as Jesus is entombed, I imagine Jesus entering the hell of acute loneliness, descending to the depths of isolation and pain.

Tradition has it that Jesus enters hell in order to share in this experience—and to redeem and liberate us from its grip on our lives. Let us pray that this may be so. There is so much isolation and loneliness in our world today and so much hunger for genuine connection. Easter has much to do with the grace found in friendship and community.

Today’s readings

Reflect on how the Good News of the Resurrection can take away the sting of loneliness. How can you be Christ’s hands and feet in that work?

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