Give me justice, O God,
and plead my cause against a nation that is faithless.
From the deceitful and cunning rescue me,
for you, O God, are my strength. (Psalm 43: 1-2)
As we ‘celebrate’ this 5th Sunday of Lent, we are just now entering the period of time in the Church’s’ liturgical calendar, referred to as Passion-tide. Normally, as we enter the Church for Mass on this Sunday, we find that all the holy water has been drained from the fonts and we see that all of the statues are covered with purple veils, from the looks of it, something has changed… Normally, with the images covered, our hearts and minds are prompted to meditate on what is coming next. That time in the world’s history in which Christ went off to the Garden to pray before He was to bear the weight of the world’s sins. It was a time of intense suffering and desolation as He went off alone to prepare for the Sacrifice that was soon to be made. The Sacrifice He made out of love for man, by allowing for Himself to be condemned for something He did not do and by dying for us so that our sins might be forgiven.
Normally, it is during these days of Passion-tide, that we are called to walk the road with Christ as He made His way to Calvary. It is a brutal walk…. not for the faint of heart… Yet, as Christians, we are called to participate, somehow, even in our meagerness, to try and ease the burden of the Cross He carried for us and our salvation. He calls each of us to this road. We are each called to ponder and meditate on that fateful day. These stark disciplines of veiling the statues are to help us to remove all the distractions of the world and allow ourselves to be veiled in the same darkness that had shrouded the world… including His followers... of being ‘without‘ Christ, while they waited for His Promise to be fulfilled.
If your Church has remained open for private prayer, find the courage to go and spend some time with the Lord hidden in the tabernacle. If you are able, try to notice how empty and bare the altars with the veiled statuary make you feel. In the quietness of God, let your eyes rest upon Him in the tabernacle. Let your heart rest on His presence in the Eucharist. Let yourself meditate upon His Passion and how He suffered for each one of us. Blow by brutal blow... how He endured it all… patiently and without complaint. As we meditate upon His great love for us, let us unite our hearts with His and pray for those who suffer today. Those who are suffering their own brutal blows. Those who will be forced to spend their last moments on this earth… separated from everyone… those who will not only suffer… but especially, those who will die alone… and pray for them.
This year, Lent has been different. We didn’t have to wait for this 5th Sunday of Lent, for our Passion-tide to begin… No, because of this virus and everything that it has taken with it, we have been physically separated from Christ in the Eucharist for fourteen days. Restrictions have been imposed upon us as a means of trying to contain the spread of this pandemic. Restrictions that teeter on the border of all out fear... This year, Catholics, the world over, have been called to sacrifice our religious obligations … Our ‘oneness‘ with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. We have been ‘convinced’ that our health security comes with a deep, deep price… We are being told that the Rock upon which Christ built His Church has been deemed by those in government authority to be ‘non essential’….
It has left many a hearts to ache, and I can honestly say, it is a sacrifice that I would not have made on my own. .. it is a much more difficult Lent than the one I had chosen for myself. But I shouldn’t complain. God knows what we need. Especially now, as I hear about all of the faithful who are being left to die alone. Don’t kid yourself, with these new restrictions, many are dying without family and without the sacraments, it has become clear to me that God is calling for the rest of us to do more. He is calling us to do a small part in carrying His Cross of Redemption.
During these days of Passion-tide, let us not neglect our duty in serving and loving God just because Mass has been canceled. Many churches remain open for private prayer… but even if you are praying from home, there is much we can do. From right where we are. These ‘social distancing’ restrictions are forcing us to examine our faithfulness to the Lord. Are we going to allow ourselves to fall into the chaos of the world and leave Christ alone? This goes back to a message we have heard all of our lives … “we are to find Christ in everyone we meet”. Have we succeeded? Are we looking at our neighbors, or those we rush past in the stores as Christ? I ask, Are we even looking at them anymore? Dear Lord, help me in my littleness to have the courage to do Your Will….
At a time when the Church calls us to focus our attention on Christ’s suffering, are we recognizing the suffering in our neighbors? I am not trying to undermine the Lord’s suffering by any means… but we are Christians are we not? And in many places the churches are closed, and many have been ‘physically’ separated from Christ in the Eucharist. What are we doing? Are we living disciples of Christ and doing His work? I know we will never be “Christ”, but that is what we are called to do. To be Christ.
Have I lost my mind? No. We are called to follow Him. To do as He would do. Not just pray as He would pray. I don’t think it is just a cliche… something that sounds good. We are actually supposed to be Him in the world, to the world. Or have we abandoned the Lord and our Cross of redemption altogether? Christ died for us… freely giving of Himself so that we might live. Are we giving? Or are we so concerned with our own well being and safety that not only are we neglecting our duty to God but to our neighbors as well? Perhaps we might reexamine our own motives for how we live each day. Just what am I getting at?
Well, for starters, everything has been stripped away. All those ‘normal’ distractions, that so often pull us away from our Christian duties. Isn’t it ironic that during this time of Lent when we are supposed to rid ourselves of worldly distraction, that God has allowed for this. He has allowed everything to be taken away. The good and the bad. The nonstop sporting events as well as everything that vies for our time… that vies for our hearts... Some might think there is another reason for all of this, and perhaps there might be. But as a faithful follower of Christ, I’d have to stake my life on the fact that God is indeed in control of all of this. He will not abandon us and He will get us through this, as He does everything else, to help us become the best He created us to be. Stay strong my friends and God bless.
Eternal God, in Whom mercy is endless
and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible
look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us
so that in difficult moments we might not despair
nor become despondent
but with great confidence
submit ourselves to Your Holy Will
which is Love and Mercy Itself. Amen.
Jesus I trust in You.