Fourth Sunday in Lent
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is with extreme sadness that I have to write this to you without being able to physically be present with you. Throughout the ages the Church has always insisted on the importance of God’s people gathering together around the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – the Eucharist – which our Lord Jesus Christ told his disciples to celebrate – “Do this in memory of me”.
This morning, for the first time ever, I had to celebrate Mass behind closed doors. Yes, I have celebrated Masses before in private – on my day off, and when, earlier, I was not a parish priest, but today and tomorrow and for the rest of the foreseeable future, this will have to be the case. We pray that this may be in the short term – all this will be very difficult – for me and, I am sure also for you. Rest assured that I will be saying Mass every day – the times of the Masses are included at the end of this “homily”.
I will post homilies and reflections regularly on here so that we can still be together in our thoughts and our prayers.
In this Sunday’s Gospel (4th Sunday of Lent) we hear about the healing of the man born blind from birth. In so many ways the healing of this man can reflect where we are in our present crisis. The man was blind from birth so the disciples themselves asked our Lord, “who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?” The disciples attributed the blindness of the man to some punishment from God in one way or another. Jesus’s answer completely pushes aside this blame-giving: “he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” At the end of the account we hear that, after controversy amongst the people and having stood up against the ruling elite, the once blind man meets our Lord again and makes his confession of faith to Jesus, saying: “‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him.”
How does this apply to us today? Many are saying, why is God allowing this present worldwide health crisis with the Coronavirus? The question is similar to that presented to Jesus at the beginning of the Gospel passage today. Is it our fault, or someone else’s? The answer, I believe is the same: no it is here only “so that the works of God might be displayed” – this time, though these works need to be displayed in us. We are the ones, now, through whom the works of God might be displayed. OK – we are not allowed to come to Mass publicly but we are still Catholic and we still and will always have our faith. I am your priest here in Didcot and Wallingford, and, despite my faults and failures, I will try my best to minister to you, the people God has entrusted into my care. Each of us has been given a personal calling and a personal ministry and a personal call to witness. Now is the time to put this into practice, to make it become a reality.
So, let this time of trial, of restrictions, of isolation become a time of opening ourselves up to God’s will. Join me in prayer every day as I celebrate Mass – if you can, use the format below, if not, simply say a little “arrow prayer” to God like, Lord I love you. Above all, let us be like the blind man whose sight was restored by Jesus – a good witness to others and, by the way we live our lives, proclaim: Lord, I believe – and let us worship him, our Lord Jesus Christ, in our hearts and in our daily lives.