Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 22, 2020
Last weekend, reality hit. The very same “reality” we Christians marked ourselves with on Ash Wednesday. The “reality” that so many people turn a blind eye to…pushing it to the back of their minds, trying to live around the truth that…
WE ARE DUST…AND TO DUST WE SHALL RETURN!
So how did you react to this high-powered hit of “reality,” reminding us of how fragile and vulnerable we are?
Were you one of the folks that rushed to empty the shelves in the stores, selfishly stockpiling, focused only on yourself? There certainly have been reports of the “everyone for themselves” mentality. Fear tends to BLIND us to the needs of others, causing us to lose sight of the call to be CHARITABLE.
Did you make an effort to comply with the authorities’ urgent call for “dramatic reduction of activity,” or were you resentful and resistant to the suggestions that you voluntarily limit your freedom? Again, there are the unfortunate reports of bars, filled with patrons, refusing to close. It seems that a lot of people are so focused on protecting their own right to do as they wish that they become BLINDED to the rights of others to avoid being infected.
We Christians are accustomed to “FASTING AND ABSTAINING.” It’s part of our Lenten routine…or at least it should be. We know how to take control over the things that try to get control over us…or at least should. We’ve got this!
For us Catholic Christians, “the reality” became REALLY real…when we learned that dioceses around the world were canceling Masses…even Sunday Masses. The Eucharist is THE SOURCE AND THE SUMMIT of our faith. The Eucharist defines us.
And in no small way, the definition is one of the participants in Jesus’s act of total Self-sacrifice for the sake of others. Foregoing Eucharist for the sake of containing the pandemic…for the sake of others…is very consistent with the meaning and purpose of the Eucharist. But, while we wait for the “all clear” it is good to remember that when two or more are gathered in my name…
The third pillar of Lent is PRAYER. In past generations, that has involved families gathering in their own homes for special Lenten prayers. In recent times, that practice seems to have been neglected or forgotten altogether. This might well be the Lent to reinvigorate the long and rich tradition of family prayer. We do not have to gather in our churches to enjoy the presence of Christ. When two or more are gathered in my name means that the Lord is eager to be a guest in our homes.
Even still, in the meantime, priests are being encouraged to celebrate “private masses.” The Mass is a way of breaking out of time and space. From the moment we gather “In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” until we hear the celebrant say: “Go in the Peace of the Lord,” we exist in a spiritual reality that defies the laws of nature. We are all there.
Through the Eucharist, the past, the present, and the future all blend into the reality of the Eternal Christ. So, for one hour a day, I will be joining other priests in defying the order for social distancing. YOU will all be in my home GATHERED around my table…doing as the Lord commanded…in memory of Him…and He will be in our midst.
We don’t know when this emergency will come to an end. We are uncertain as to how the dramatic events of today will impact our future. But what we do know with certainty is that Lent 2020 will conclude with Easter Sunday. Don’t let this emergency blind you to the reality of Resurrection.
We embrace the practices of ALMSGIVING, FASTING, AND PRAYER so that we are better able to understand that it is only our earthly bodies that will return to dust. Our spiritual selves will rise to share in the glory of the Risen Christ.
And so…GO IN THE PEACE OF CHRIST!
Thanks be to God.