Fr. John’s Letter – 18th April 2020

Dear Parishioners of St Jerome’s and St Anne’s

‘the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews’

The news of a further three weeks of lockdown came as no surprise. It was accepted quietly, even as calls for an exit strategy grow. The tranquil atmosphere of our town continues. Easter has come and gone, even though the Church continues to celebrate the Resurrection for fifty days. In the midst of all of this, we remain behind closed doors.

Fear is a very powerful emotion. It is not entirely negative of course. It helps us sense danger and to flee from it. But for the most part, fear is destructive and can often be found lurking in the heart. It can obscure our reason and quickly convince us that disaster is waiting for us just around the corner. It overwhelms us quickly and its companion, anxiety, sits on us like a dead weight, trapping us in an endless cycle of worry and fret. This is a reality we are all familiar with.

The quotation from John’s Gospel at the beginning of this letter is taken from today’s Gospel, for the second Sunday of Easter. The disciples were in a self imposed lockdown. Fear lurked in that upper room, convincing them that any minute the soldiers would crash through the door and drag them all to crucifixion. It was a distinct possibility of course. But as is so often the case, their initial fears compounded and became more dramatic, more irrational. It is no surprise then, that the first words Jesus speaks to them as he enters the room are ‘Peace be with you’.

The first consequence of the presence of the Risen Jesus is the dispelling of fear. Peace floods the heart, a peace this world cannot give. It brings rest, reassurance, a supernatural perspective. Our reason is restored, we can begin to think clearly again, recover our balance. Anxiety has nothing to hold on to anymore, This is the beginning of the new life that Jesus promises to those who love him.

We all have much more time on our hands at the moment. If we use it well it can be a very welcome gift. But the temptation is to spend too much time thinking, imagining, creating different scenarios in our heads of what may or may not happen. It is very difficult to overcome this temptation, but there is a way beyond it.

All too often, our experience of the peace of the Risen Jesus is brief and fleeting. This is not what we have been promised. This peace is meant to take root in our hearts permanently. How? Jesus answers us; ‘Remain in me’. Notice how he does not say remain with me, but remain in me. How? Primarily through the Eucharist of course, which we are unable to receive at the moment. But there are other ways. Mindfulness of his presence with us, quiet prayer, speaking his name quietly, seeking a little quiet with him during the day.

As we continue our celebration of the Resurrection, let us ask for this peace, for a quietening of our over active imaginations, for the defeat of fear and anxiety, for the reassurance that Jesus is truly present in our hearts. This is truly one Easter gift that we all need!

God bless you all!

Father John