By Alphonsus Cullinan, Bishop of Waterford & Lismore
YEARS ago, I read a book which I think every human being should read: ‘Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. Frankl had survived the horror of three years in a concentration camp.
Not that I am equating a pandemic with life in a concentration camp, but we are in a lockdown not of our choosing.
For a second year running we face a Holy Week with doors closed for public worship. Where is God in all this? God’s answer is already given. Jesus is God with us. Jesus is human and divine. The Lord did not create this pandemic, but he is meeting us in it. When he says I am with you always He means including now.
How therefore should we act in this situation? Frankl writes in the aforementioned book: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
It is clear that we cannot change the virus, but we can change the attitude we take to what it has caused.
We are being forced to take a closer look at our lives. If we think we are in control of life, then we are sorely mistaken. Life is wonderful but passing. I must face life as it is presented to me. Lockdown has caused so much stress. I have found it very difficult, but I must say in a strange way enriching. I have learnt more profoundly what faith, family and friends really mean. I am more conscious of the persecuted, the poor and the homeless. I value more highly things of true value.
My prayer has become more real, and I have learnt to face myself more courageously. The person one first meets in silence and in prayer is one’s self. And I may find in myself and in my past things I would rather not face.
This is, I feel, why modern humanity finds silence so difficult. Maybe lockdown will help us face ourselves and set things right with God’s grace.
The Lord Jesus is not afraid of my past or my situation. Jesus loves you and me. He is not afraid of our sin. He knows our human condition. It is precisely because he knows us and wants to heal us, to forgive our sins and show us glory that he becomes human.
From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, we follow Jesus who, though he is all-good and without sin, takes on the filth of human sin which we throw at him and lovingly forgives and accepts the Cross.
His Passion is awful, gut-wrenching torture. Holy Week should mean more to us now since we know something more about the Cross and are forced to ask ourselves what are the essentials things that make up life. He knows what He is going to face and still wants to go through it to make all things new.
This is what Lent and Easter is all about. His death is not the end neither is this pandemic. His love is the last word, and he will rise from the dead. So, I am learning to wait on God. As the psalmist says: “Be strong let your heart take courage, all those who wait for the Lord.” (Ps 31.)