As we navigate through the Coronavirus and the seemingly unending strain of directives and regulations released by the Church and government agencies, we pray for and await good health and healing in all the world.
In most dioceses, the latest is: Closed and locked churches and no private prayer in any church building. While this is certainly a painful reality of the pandemic and a measure taken in the best interest of public health, it is a difficult thought to grasp.
However, for Catholics and Christians alike, this story of locked doors should certainly sound familiar. “The doors were locked” (John 20:19). These words begin the telling of Jesus Christ’s appearance as risen from the dead to Saint Peter and the Apostles. The story continues on with Jesus breathing on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:20). Wherever the Holy Spirit is, there is sanctification, grace, renewal, and abounding faith, hope, and charity.
In the present day too, with locked doors, Jesus Christ is indeed breathing on us the gift of His Holy Spirit and calling us to renewal in His Spirit. Despite doors being locked, we are called to live and look towards the Resurrection of the Lord seeking renewal. With locked doors, the Holy Spirit is stirring about the grace of renewal for the Body of Christ that longs to physically and sacramentally gather together.
Perhaps these are some ways Jesus is instructing us in the ways of renewal and calling us to “Receive the Holy Spirit” in times of locked doors, social-distancing, and self-quarantining:
• A renewal of Eucharistic faith. Our feeling of spiritual deficiency without being nourished by Jesus and the gift of Himself can fuel a true longing for Him in our lives. When we can receive the Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul, and the Divinity of Jesus Christ again, we can do so with great reverence, desire, and faith. We can make a firm resolve to ensure we are truly ready to receive Him by living in the state of grace and being committed to living in communion with Almighty God, the Church, and the Body of Christ.
• A renewal of the Domestic Church. Families are praying together, asking each other for prayers, talking about their faith, and watching live-streamed Masses and Christian programs together. How beautiful if this was the norm. Maybe this time can be a renewal of our commitment to faith in the family. After all, “the family home is rightly called ‘the domestic church,’ a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity” (CCC 1666).
• A renewal of our Communal Prayer. How we all long to gather together in-person and unite together in prayer. In heeding the Word as prophets, offering all we are and all we have to the Father in the offertory and eucharistic sacrifice as priests, and living the communion of the Body of Christ as kings, we can revive our Communal Prayer. “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people’ (cf. 1 Pet. 2:9; 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 14). Maybe we can commit now to more intentionally cherishing our time in our Communal Prayer by fully entering into it
As we continue this journey through Lent toward the Paschal Mystery—the celebration of Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection, we find ourselves really “going into the desert” as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic unfolds. However, through these times in uncharted lands as we are “locked out”, we must persevere in our journey with the Lord to Himself.
May we unite our sadness, struggles, and difficulties with those seriously affected by the Coronavirus and with Jesus Christ in His suffering. May we be open to the ways in which Jesus is indeed breathing on us and calling us to renewal in His Spirit at the core of our faith: the journey to and through the cross.