ON Ash Wednesday we were reminded of our frailty when we received ash on our foreheads. And we were advised by Jesus in the Gospel not to parade our faith in public; rather, ‘when you pray, go to your private room’.
How prophetic these words were then and how much they have become a reality in our lives five weeks later. As the predicted curve begins to rise, we no longer need ash on our foreheads to remind us of our frailty. As self-isolation becomes the norm for many of us, our television rooms have now become the place where we can participate in Mass, say our prayers and receive spiritual communion.
Lent 2020 has seen much fear and distress: serious illness and death from the virus; uncertainty among so many with regard to their financial future; families with young children confined to small spaces; the elderly in our nursing homes, their lives clouded by fear and anxiety; ‘cabin fever’ among the active … the list goes on and on. And as the period of detention is extended, the dark clouds of the past few weeks fail to lift.
In the Old Testament, the constant advice given by God to his people is: ‘Call on me in the day of distress and I will free you and you will honour me’ (Psalm 50).
Well, this is certainly a time of distress and we need to feel free to call on the Lord, but I think most of us are a bit reluctant to call on the Lord at times like this. Why? Because we say to ourselves ‘the Lord only hears from me when I am in trouble’. The invitation of the Lord has no ifs, buts or maybes. He simply says to us, without reservation, ‘call on me in the day of distress’.
This invitation comes from the God who loved us so much that He didn’t just allow His Son to come to us.,He sent Him.
During Holy Week, we remembered the depth of God’s love for us and we gained new confidence in our freedom to call on him in these, our days and weeks of distress. On Good Friday we listened to Christ’s appeal to His Father in the day of his distress: ‘My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?’
Let us join Christ in His distress and call on God for deliverance, remembering that Christ’s prayer was answered with joy of the resurrection. And after this time of distress and suffering, joy will also return to us.
Great and genuine thanks has been expressed to so many at this time: doctors, nurses, carers, ambulance drivers, An Garda Síochána, neighbours, the HSE and so on. A sincere prayer for all priests who are always ready to continue their care for the sick and elderly, bury our dead with dignity and with prayer, offer faith and consolation to those who call on them and celebrate Mass daily for the needs of our parishioners.
If you have a Jerusalem Bible, read Psalm 50 in full; if you haven’t one, Mr Google is always there. This psalm has a lot to say to us just now: ‘Call on me in the day of your distress, I will rescue you and you will honour me.’ Add to this, the prayer of St John Henry Newman: ‘Lead kindly light amid the encircling gloom, lead thou me on … I do not ask to see the distant scene … one step enough for me.’
May the hope and joy of Easter become a reality in our lives and in our world.
In time, we will be well again. We will be even closer, kinder, more compassionate and full of gratitude. As humanity recovers, may the abundance of God’s grace anoint us with faith, hope and peace of mind …