When faced with unsettling, difficult times, the faithful can find comfort in the words of Jesus. These words were not only spoken for those listening to Jesus speak 2000+ years ago, but for each of us today. The truths of the Gospel inspire peace because they do not change. Jesus is the same today, yesterday, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
This week I would like to share a few Bible verses for you to contemplate throughout your week, especially whenever you may be feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or on the verge of despair with the ever-changing coronavirus situation.
No Place to Worship
“Azariah stood up in the fire and prayed aloud: “For your name’s sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant. Do not take away your mercy from us… For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins… We have no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received.” (Daniel 3: 25; 34-43)
In this passage from the Prophet Daniel, Azariah stood and prayed aloud a prayer from the heart. In his moment of difficulty, he asks the Lord to help them, deliver them, and not abandon them. Azariah recognizes that the people have failed, and they need to be forgiven; he asks the Lord not to deliver them up nor take away His mercy. I think in this time, at this moment in our lives, we are all raising our hearts and prayers to the Lord. We raise our voices and prayers to the Father, to Jesus, to the Blessed Mother to be with us, to strengthen us, to guide us, to help us get through these difficult moments.
The prophet frets at a lack of a place of worship, a place to offer their sacrifice. How incredible that this Scripture written centuries ago, regarding having no place to worship, is so pertinent in our current day. As right now, we feel the same way because we cannot gather together in our churches to worship. However, we can still be united in prayer. We can still pray from home; we can offer our oblations and sacrifices from where we are— from the recesses of our homes, from the quiet of our hearts, we can do it every day and make these difficulties and our sacrifices, sincere prayer, a true moment of blessing for the Church.
Perhaps the greatest sacrifice we offer these days of social distancing is the sacrifice of not being able to be in Church, to celebrate as a community, to pray together, and especially not be able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. What a tremendous sacrifice this is for so many of our people. We are used to making little sacrifices during Lent, perhaps giving up something that we like, such as sweets or chocolate, as well as fasting and abstaining from meat. This Lent, we are being asked for a different type of sacrifice; we are asked to offer God our inability to be together to pray together.
Other Scriptures we can look to for Strength and Comfort
“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we are experiencing the trouble in the world Jesus spoke of, and we can be sure, if we live long enough, we will experience more troubles. Yet, as Christians, we are not to lose heart. Look careful at Jesus’ words. He is offering us peace and inviting us to have courage, not of our own accord but through His grace. In his Passion, death, and resurrection, he has won the victory over not only illness and problems in our lives, but over death itself. While we are in the midst of the trouble, it can be hard to maintain that peace, return to this passage, and ask Jesus for the grace to endure knowing you are standing in His victory.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” (Matthew 6:25-27).
The news across the globe can be unsettling; there are so many unknowns, which can cause many people to worry. The time in which Jesus lived among us was also filled with trials and uncertainties that caused people concern. His advice should invoke great hope in whatever circumstances cause you to lose your peace. Put your hope in our heavenly Father and things of heaven, and not in things of this world. We cannot change the outcome by worrying. Our lives are safely in the hands of our loving God. As Padre Pio wisely said, “pray, hope, don’t worry. Worrying is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
As we all navigate through this unprecedented time, be assured God will use this for good, and see this is an opportunity for each of us to grow stronger in our faith. We are still in the midst of our Lenten season and can take a new look at the practices of prayers, fasting, and almsgiving.
We have all had to fast from so much, sacrificing to do our part to bring an end to the spread of this virus. We can look at these many cancellations and postponements as additional Lenten fasts.
As we are faced with the temporary closing of churches to prevent the spread of Covid-19, we can use the many online resources as well as televised and streaming Masses as a way to incorporate more prayer into our lives. Of use with online Masses, the Magnificat magazine, which offers daily reflections and prayers, along with the daily Mass readings, is offering free online access.
Please know of my continued prayers for each of you and my commitment to continue to monitor and evaluate the situation as it develops.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha