My heart has been feeling very heavy lately. Like everyone else, I have been feeling the weight of all this isolating and uncertainty. You turn on the news or check your email and everything is about the Coronavirus. I am instantly aware of all the suffering going on in our world right now-the sick, vulnerable, newly unemployed. Schools, churches, workplaces-all shut down. No one’s life has not been affected by all of this in some way. As Catholics, this will be the first Sunday that we will not be able to attend Mass and receive our precious Lord in the Eucharist. Receiving this news, on top of everything else, has been especially heartbreaking. The world is in need of every prayer we can offer right now. We are certainly entering the desert with Jesus this Lent.
Church, for most of us, is the place we find refuge. It is our solace and peace in the midst of an uncertain, chaotic world. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our entire faith. We have been so blessed in our country to never worry about whether we would be able to attend mass or receive our Lord. Thanks be to Jesus, we have always remained free to worship and receive Him. Now, we will have to worship Him in the quiet of our hearts and the isolation of our homes for the time being. This will certainly be a cross. But, we are not the only ones who have had to carry such a cross. In fact, we are among the few who have not had to carry it, up until now.
Throughout our Church history, many of our brothers and sisters were deprived of the gift of being able to receive our Lord in the Eucharist. Many even today, have to go underground just to secretly attend mass. Right now, we must draw near to them spiritually, as we understand to a tiny degree, the ache they experience for our Lord. We can also draw strength from the life of the Apostles. My husband was comforting me the other night as I was struggling with the reality of not being able to go to mass, and he said, “This must be how the Apostles felt when they were away from Jesus.” I started thinking about how they must have ached for Him when he was no longer in their midst. They got so used to being with Him-watching Him preach, seeing him minister to the people- they were up front and center as He healed and encouraged a broken world. They also got to see him in the quiet moments when the crowds were not around. They ate with him, traveled with him, had deep conversations with Him. Imagine when Jesus left them for 40 days while he went into the desert to pray and prepare for His Paschal Mystery. 40 days!!! Can you imagine how long this must have felt for the Apostles to be separated from Him?
We, just like the Apostles, are going to ache for our Lord right now. Whether it’s for 40 days or however long until our churches open for Mass again, we are asked to enter into this ache and yearning for our Lord. It’s in these moments where we ache, that we come to a deeper place of gratitude. How often did I just go through the motions or take for granted being able to receive our Lord whenever I wanted? Too many times I am sure. Lord, let us repent for the ways we took you for granted. I pray in my own heart and in each of our hearts, that this ache will transform the way we receive our Lord, once we are able to consume His precious Body and Blood again. I pray that all the deadened places of our spiritual lives would be reinvigorated during this time and that the areas of our hearts that grew complacent would be re-awakened. My friend texted me the other day and she said, “I really can’t wait to see what good Jesus is going to bring out of all this.” There will certainly be an abundance of good that will come from this suffering.
It is especially important that we remain united in prayer during this time. We need a sense of community, especially as we are all more isolated. Maybe we can reach out and pray with our friends and family over the phone more? Write cards. Send encouraging texts. We do not want to feel emotionally or spiritually cut off from our community of faith, even though we may be physically kept at a distance right now. Let’s do our best to intentionally lean on each other during this time, just as the Apostles had to do. Also, lets remember the importance of saying our prayers for protection and our spiritual communion prayers, the power of wearing our sacramentals, and blessing ourselves with holy water each day. Our Church has given us an abundance of beautiful weapons to strengthen our faith. We need to utilize them in moments like these.
It’s important for us to keep donating to charities and our churches during this time if we can. So often they rely on our weekly donations in the offertory, but without mass, this will affect our parishes financially. There are ways to donate online so that our parishes don’t struggle. Let’s pray for our priests as well. I can imagine how they are struggling as they ache to bring Jesus to us, their flock. One priest friend of mine, shared his struggle with not being able to administer the sacraments to his people. Our Shepherds are suffering with us in an intimate way right now.
Our Bishops have encouraged us to find creative ways to keep Holy the Sabbath during this time. We are encouraged to watch mass on TV, to pray the rosary, read Scripture and remain steadfast in prayer. This is a beautiful resource for helping us keep Holy the Sabbath:
Here is a list of petitions we can pray for during this time:
Lord, grant healing and comfort to those who are afflicted by the Coronavirus.
We pray for our health professionals, our caretakers, and clergy who are working with those who are sick. Lord, protect them and strengthen them as they care in your name.
We pray for our civic leaders. Lord, inspire them to make wise decisions in these days.
We pray for our scientists. Lord, enlighten them as they work to understand what is happening – guide their work as they strive to find ways to treat and protect us.
We pray for those who are anxious in these days. Lord, ease their fears and grant them the consolation of your presence.
We pray for those who suffer in any way at this time – the poor, the hungry, the homeless – those who suffer from persecution, war, violence –those who are depressed, lonely or sad. Lord, help them in their need.
We pray for our families and friends (by name). Lord, protect them and look after them.
We pray for a spirit of charity among our fellow countrymen and women. Lord, at this time of national crisis, help us to be generous and to look out for and care for each other.
We pause to pray for our own private intentions (Pause to mention intentions). Lord, hear my prayer.
We pray for our loved ones who have died. Lord, enfold them ever more closely in your loving embrace.
Father, we ask you to hear these our prayers and if it be your will to answer them for we make them in faith and love and trust thorough Christ our Lord, Amen.
Let us stay healthy, holy and as hopeful as we can. Jesus, we trust in you!
“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”-Mathew 28:20
2019 Drewe DeJesus
Photo from Freely Photos by Thomas Engler