Are we in Limbo?

By Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP

During the COVID-19 lockdown, my young friend Sarah, an intelligent, Master-prepared, fervent catholic, wrote this thought-provoking piece on Limbo for her Journal Club. I asked Sarah’s permission to share with you. I hope you will savor this very amazing piece of reflection on Limbo.

Here in my apartment, my life has been put on hold. So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Limbo. There is a concept in the Christian world of “Limbo” – the place where the un-shriven dead await their final judgment. Salvation or Damnation? That is the question.

Lately, limbo has been deprived of its religious connotations and is now taken to mean simply “waiting.” But, waiting for what? That is a poignant question that I dare ask in this time of pandemic pandemonium. A pandemonium made all the worse by its subtlety. I and the rest of the world are waiting: for the world to end, for the economy to crash, to lose our jobs, our income, whether we will lose our jobs or incomes. When will our loved ones get sick, when will they die? When will I die? Waiting for oblivion, waiting for Apocalypse, waiting for Pestilence, for Chaos? Waiting for love and salvation? Waiting for the return of Christ the King and His Loving Mercy!

Speaking of Christ the King on this, Good Friday, He, too, waited. In the Gospels, three days pass between Jesus’s death and resurrection. What was this like for Christ? Some legends say that he freed the souls in Hell, others say Limbo. But, really, what was it like for Christ? Did he ever once wake up in the tomb on Day 1 or Day 2? Did he look around him, achy and groggy, and think to himself, “What the bleep just happened?” “Why am I still waiting to return to my Father?” We all know that Christ being God himself, he knew the answer to these questions, in his divinity. But the human side of Jesus maybe didn’t or didn’t want to know. Just like people today. He waited, more or less patiently, for His final destiny. Just like the rest of us. The Bible says “In the beginning, there was the Word.” And God rested on the 7th day and the world waited for his Word to “become flesh.”

Of course, waiting depends on a future and some say that the very concept of the future is a Western construct. Many indigenous peoples believe that time is cyclical, or that time itself is timeless. But, to wait, is to anticipate the future, a future that may never be. But, still we wait. Still, we live in Limbo, suspended in time that exists only in our minds and fail to realize that now is all we have.

Time is merely the endless present. And we wait patiently, expectantly, for a future that already is, was and always will be. We wait because there is little else we can do in the face of such awesome uncertainty. This is what we call God and patience can be our salvation, if we seek it. This is Ecclesiastes’ message when he says that “All is vanity except for the Lord.” And this is what Jesus means, when he says, “the things of this world pass away but the Word of the Lord never passes away.” We await the eternal Word and because the Word is eternal, we’ll be waiting for a long time yet. Because the Word waits with us!

I want to thank Sarah for sharing her insight during this COVID-19 moment. Her writing infused new hope and a sense of optimism for our future. Having youngsters like Sarah, we know our next generation will live the Gospel and carry the Words of the Lord.

Your homework assignment from the Care Ministry this week: reflect on an event that you were waiting for impatiently, but knowing that Christ is with you, your impatience melted away.

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