Holding each other in prayer and in love.
I started writing these few words on Monday 23rd March. I had just heard that Jacinda Ardern was locking down the country to take effect in the next 48 hours and that we were all being asked to stay at home except those involved in essential services. Let’s hope and pray these moves protect us especially those who are most vulnerable and at risk. I hope now that we are several days into it you are doing OK.
I thank God that I can still go for a walk alone. I am very fortunate to have a park near me with magnificent trees that easily lift my mind and heart to the beauty and goodness of God. I have already found that slowing down and being less distracted has helped me to become more focused. It’s kind of like being on retreat in a way. Things of beauty will be very helpful for all of us at this time, the smile and concern of those who live with us, the friendship and support of those who keep in contact via telephone, internet and by other electronic means, the pot plants on the back and front steps or in the conservatory if you have one or simply the colour of the autumn leaves on the trees and upon the ground. I think we will become more and more conscious of what can lift our spirits at times like this.
I would like to remember all health professionals that they remain healthy and not overwhelmed and that they feel our deep appreciation for the essential work they are continuing to do for those who are sick.
In our Sunday Gospel for the 5th week of Lent that you listened to me read, we heard the sisters and friends of Jesus, Mary and Martha, sent a message to him informing him about their brother Lazarus that “the man you love is ill.” How relevant is that for these days.
Many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world and in our own country are ill and in faith we know that each of us is deeply loved by God. We too can send a message to Jesus in prayer asking him to come and be with us. I am sure you have been doing that already. We need his presence and comfort. Jesus may not respond instantly or in the way we would expect as we heard in the reading, but he does come, and he does respond.
I am always deeply moved by Christ’s response in seeing Mary’s tears mourning the death of her brother. He displays great distress with a sigh that comes straight from the heart and he weeps for his friend. I believe Christ is weeping for all those families who have lost loved ones in various places throughout the world. He weeps with us in our sorrows and distress.
Christ becoming one us of us understands and identifies with us in our human condition.
He did not shy away from it. He asks us to do the same. I know all this is not easy for us to understand and we can question why all this is happening in the first place. The Jews too said, ‘He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?’
In the silence of our hearts we can humbly place before Christ the questions and fears we have. It’s OK to be upfront and real with him.
Christ declares that he is the resurrection and the life and demonstrates that by raising Lazarus from the dead. As Christians we believe that this earthly life we live is not the end of the story and that one day we will be united with him in heaven.
We know too that even in this life we experience and choose things that can cause us to die inside. We need the life that Jesus offers us to restore us and set us free. ‘Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ Jesus directs this same question to us as he did to Mary. Perhaps we can pray for the gift today to hear him cry out to those areas in our life that we have shut away out of sight behind a stone. Those things we don’t want to face, those things we hold onto and think we need for our security and happiness, those hurts we can’t forgive, those bands of stuff and cloth constricting us and holding us back.
None of us want our freedoms to be curtailed but perhaps these weeks of lockdown will help us discover who and what really matters. That’s a great freedom to have.
Given our present experience, one that so many of our brothers and sisters are experiencing throughout the world, I thought ‘My Heart Embraces The World’ from ‘Ignatian Inspiration would be appropriate for us to reflect on as we hold each other in prayer and in love.