Dear parishioners of St Jerome’s and St Anne’s
I wonder how many of us managed to see the special blessing that Pope Francis gave to the City of Rome and the World on Friday evening. In one sense, it was a very sad sight. The solitary figure of the Pope looking out on a completely empty Square, and a city and a country in complete lockdown suffering so many deaths. Yet there was something very powerful there as well. The Pope has only one thing to offer the world. That is the person of Jesus, crucified and risen. When he stepped forward, alone, to raise the monstrance containing the body of Jesus to bless us, it was one of the most powerful moments I have experienced.
This Sunday is the fifth Sunday of Lent. It is astonishing to think that Holy Week is already just one week away! In this Sunday’s Gospel we hear the account of the raising of Lazarus. Remember that Lazarus, with his sisters Martha and Mary, were dear friends of Jesus. He wept when he was told that Lazarus had died, the only reference to Jesus weeping in the Gospels. It is love that moves the heart of Jesus to raise his friend from the dead. It was the tears of Martha and Mary that moved Jesus so deeply.
It is significant that the Covid 19 pandemic has struck us during the season of Lent. The Church has always lived the days of Lent as a time of penance. We are all certainly living days of penance now! But penance is never meant to be an empty act of self inflicted pain or discomfort. It is meant to be an effort to overcome our selfishness and to allow our love to be more sincere, more like the love of Jesus.
I know that there will be many who are finding these days of lockdown very difficult. We are all having to create new routines and we are needing new depths of patience with each other! We are all afraid of the situation we find ourselves in. We are being shown that when everything seems to be disappearing, only Jesus is left. He is the only one who can give us what we need the most; peace, light, strength.
In this situation, let us turn to Jesus and call on his love as Martha and Mary did. Let us ask him to spare us from this virus, to strengthen those who have contracted it and those who are critically ill, to bless and protect our wonderful NHS workers and front line workers, and to return our world to better days soon.
I shall be at the Altar on Sunday praying for each one of you, especially for those who are finding the lockdown difficult at home.
With every blessing,