Alleluia, he is risen indeed. That’s the traditional greeting for the Easter season, one that expresses the joy of the resurrection and what it means for our salvation. But as we slowly emerge from the long Lent of the COVID-19 pandemic, one step forward and a half-step back, I think about how the followers of Jesus responded to the news that he who had been dead was alive. Great news, yes, but disturbing. A violation of the natural order of things. If that could happen, what might be next? Was it a trick? A ploy? Just how much confidence should people have in the reports that they heard? And if they were true — if Jesus was truly the Son of God, if he had really defeated death — what did that mean for the disciples going forward? To be honest, Thomas’ reaction — his declaration that he would believe none but the evidence of his own eyes and hands — seems entirely reasonable to me. From the story in the Gospel of John, it appears that the risen Jesus understood Thomas’ doubts as well. I’ve heard many times over the years about the followers of Jesus who fell away when he was arrested, condemned and crucified. The ones who ran away, went home, decided that they hadn’t signed up to follow a common criminal. I wonder now about the ones who were able to keep their faith in the teacher Jesus through that; he had, after all, predicted his own death at the hands of the authorities. He predicted his resurrection as well, but he couldn’t have meant that literally, could he? It must have been metaphorical. He would live on in his teachings, in the memories of those who followed him. Suddenly, the world was turned upside down. They had to change their expectations, their understanding. Now, as more people are receiving vaccinations against COVID-19, we are having to learn how to live with a new reality. It’s not going back to what we saw as normal before 2020. God may be outside of time, but we are not, and we can never go back to where we were before — but it’s not what we lived with for a year or more. Attendance at Mass is still restricted, but there are more signs of normalcy, with some parishes bringing back altar servers and Sunday Mass collections. We still must wear masks and social distance in public, because vaccination is not 100 percent effective and because so many people, including all of our children, have not been able to be vaccinated yet. But it seems reasonable to plan trips to the beach this summer, and invite vaccinated relatives to backyard barbecues and so many things that we have not done for so long. For some people, that comes with anxiety. How do we know it is really safe? Will the vaccine be effective against new strains of the virus? Maybe it would be safer to stay put. This Easter brings with it a sense of hope, one that we have sorely needed. It also must come with compassion for those who cannot yet trust that hope, the same compassion Jesus showed for Thomas.