As I begin to set my thoughts into words, nothing else springs to mind except “Corona Virus” or “COVID-19” (which sounds more threatening). It is still Lent but it has turned out to be one in which our acts of penance have been imposed rather than voluntary.
Praying the psalms one morning recently, the verse:
“I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will guide them.
I will turn their darkness before them into light…..” (Is. 42:16)
really hit me hard. It speaks volumes about the world we find ourselves in at present.
For us , “the darkness” is our new Lent—a Lent of fear, cruel acts of greed and selfishness, hunger, doubt, heart-wrenching sorrow, loneliness, helplessness and even despair, all calling for self-sacrifice. People ask, “Where is God in all this?” as they have done in all the great disasters and world upheavals since the beginning. Even Jesus—God become man—cried out in his human agony:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” One can almost hear him saying: “I have been true to you. I have not denied you.”
Surely this is our New Lent and Passiontide.
However, God is always moved to care. God is the Prodigal Father; the Gentle Mother who lovingly protects her child; the Good Shepherd who tends his sheep and carries the lambs in his arms; the Eagle who carries us on his wings; THE BREAD OF LIFE. And God was THERE, in the many acts of love and kindness shown to Jesus in his passion. And God is always THERE in our own darkest days, when we experience the same love and compassion and acts of heroic self-sacrifice. It is almost as though God is saying to those kind people: “Thank you for working for me.”
Our Lent will be, it seems, a very extended one, but darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only LIGHT can do that, so we pray: “Oh, send us your light and your truth. “ (Ps.43:3) My heart is already singing: “Christ be our Light, Shine in our hearts; shine through the darkness….” (Bernadette Farrell)
And again I hear the words spoken by Christ to Julien of Norwich:
“I can make all things well; I will make all things well, and you will see with your own eyes that all manner of things will be well”.
Prayer changes things. Jesus, when he prayed to his Father on the high mountain, was completely transformed. The aspect of his face shone with unearthly brilliance—his whole being changed. Our darkness too will be turned into unimaginable light.
After the PASSION there is EASTER, when God’s intensely powerful love will raise us up. There will be an end to all this darkness. We have realised the need to seek a power beyond ourselves—GOD who IS LOVE.
Recently, a friend of mine, newly received into the Church, said, that although it felt like a coming home, the love and joy was not obvious.
This NEW EASTER will, undeniably see LOVE, JOY and PEACE spread through the world. It is already happening. People who have come through to light are singing from balconies, lights are shining in windows, and clapping encouragement to others. Nurses, Doctors, carers; over half a million volunteers; all kinds of support workers; those keeping the country going- ALL ARE SHINING THEIR LIGHT TO WIPE OUT THE DARKNESS.
Yes, we will be able to rejoice together, to talk, to smile, to sing, to walk where we will arm in arm, to embrace, to fling open church doors and pray together once more. We will see God in a different light and become a reflection of that brightness for others.
“There’ll be JOY and LAUGHTER, and PEACE ever after…..”
Easter may be a little late this year, but when it does come, our HOPE will bring LOVE, JOY and PEACE in abundance.
With St Augustine we sing:
“WE ARE AN EASTER PEOPLE AND ALLELUIA IS OUR SONG”