The decision to cancel the 2020 Lenten Retreat was a most painful decision.
For the Retreat is a time to repent of one’s sins, to make a good Confession, and to grow closer to Our Lord Jesus Christ in living one’s daily life.
The coronavirus pandemic made this necessary. The nuisance, the inconvenience, the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic are, perhaps, God’s way of asking us to follow more closely Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord in his public life cured the sick and disabled, raised the dead.
This is an opportunity for each of us to spend more ‘quality’ time with our spouse, with our children, our grandchildren, with members of our family, and friends, and neighbours, who are sick, or disabled, or old; to help out employees, or fellow workers, or clients, who are doing it tough; to keep in touch by phone or email with distant friends or relatives, especially those who are alone; to say the rosary, or read the gospels, or accompany Pope Francis’ daily Masses to be found on the Vatican website; to comply with restrictions on what one can do and not do without complaining; to stand patiently in a queue for something in short supply, maybe toilet-paper, or hand sanitiser; to take up that hobby, or read that book, which has been forgotten in the busy-ness of life; to go for a walk through the bush or on the beach.
The coronavirus pandemic invites us to return to what is most important in life. We are asked to love our neighbour as ourselves, to love others as Christ loved us.
Works of Mercy
The tradition of which we are part urges on us the corporal works of mercy-to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to house the homeless, to visit the sick and imprisoned, to bury the dead. Our tradition urges on us the spiritual works of mercy-to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to reprove the sinner, to comfort the sorrowful, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive injuries, to pray for the living and the dead. These works of mercy apply at all times, and in all places, but especially now.
We are asked to be good family members, good lawyers, good citizens, at all times, but especially now. We are asked to cast aside our preoccupation with self, our narcissism, our small-mindedness. For most of us this is not the time for speeches, or solemn declarations, but a time for forgetting ourselves, for doing what we can for all around us, despite everything. This is a time when the rubber hits the road, when we cannot hide what we are, or who we are, when the real “me” becomes apparent. Like Jonah, the reluctant prophet, we can run away, but we cannot hide.
For grave health reasons it may not be possible to participate in Mass. Most of us have others – spouse, children, grandchildren, dependent on us. Not to be able to attend Mass is a great sacrifice. As Pope John Paul II said:
The Church has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as one gift – however precious – among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself, of his person in his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work. Nor does it remain confined to the past, since “all that Christ is – all that he did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times.”
Yet even if we cannot attend Mass, we may be able to do a visit, participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This time of crisis is a time for us to come closer to God, not to drift away.
I wish you and your family all the best in this Lenten season, and a happy and holy Easter.