“The Church is not a building, it is the community … As a faith community we remember people who may need support … God’s hope is in us” – Bishop Farrell
KCLR broadcast the following homily which was delivered by Bishop Dermot Farrell during the celebration of Mass this morning
My sisters and brothers in the faith, dear listeners:
Dealing with the shared challenges of the COVID-19 global pandemic is a source of worry, anxiety and fear for every one of us. This is no longer a story where – motionless – we watch towns and cities in a distant country on our television screens. The severity of the situation calls us to be with each other in new and different ways rather than being entrapped by our usual ways of thinking and behaving. The relentless spread of the Coronavirus calls upon us to extend radically our frame of reference from the individual to a response centred on the common good. Modifying our behaviour and respecting the measures put in place can save lives. Know that our lives are in one another’s hands.
These days and weeks are a time for us to be in prayerful solidarity with each other. Turn to Lord in prayer. Our strength to take the necessary steps to fight this deadly virus will come from prayer, as well as from the support of our sisters and brothers. Trust that the Lord hears you and is with you. God will never abandon his people. He is with us, as He was with His Son in the darkest hours, although at times He is hard to see.
Although you made the difficult, but prudent decision, not to attend Sunday Mass today, remember the Church is not a building. It is the community. ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them’ (Matt 18:20). We attend to the sick by supporting them and by society acting in a sensible manner. It will be important that we look out for each other and especially the most vulnerable. Christ is in our sisters and brothers. To love those Christ loved, is to love those whom Christ loves: the stunning words of the gospel speak afresh to us today: ‘In so far as you did it to one of the least of these my sisters and brothers, you did it to me’ (Matt 25:40). As a faith community we remember people who may need support. Do what you can to help others, especially the elderly, the disabled, the poor and isolated. Keep your heart open to those who are ill and suffering. Take the necessary precautions; do not be reckless and do not risk spreading the disease.
Many events have been cancelled because of the Coronavirus. Faith, love, and especially hope, however, are not among them. The challenge posed by this aggressive virus will require the deepest outpourings of faith, hope and love, and the most rigorous exercises of justice, prudence, resilience, self-control and courage. We cannot lose hope at this unprecedented time in our history. God’s hope is in us, not just our hope in God. Genuine hope will keep us above the water as we face a range of difficult decisions and challenges. Don’t lend credence to lies or rumours, or give in to panic. These do not come from God. We pray because we place our deepest hope in providence of God – in a goodness and in a power that transcends our own capabilities. Prayer is hope in execution.
Just as our Lenten penance is meant to deepen our relationship with God and our solidarity with all who suffer as the Lord did, we can allow these sacrifices and inconveniences in our daily lives to direct our prayers toward those who have died and their loved ones, our attention toward those who are ill or facing financial hardship, our tendrils of compassion to move, invisibly, where we cannot touch, and our collective actions toward strengthening the common good. The Coronavirus poses a threat that knows no borders. As people of faith, neither does our love and concern for our neighbours.
Around this time of the year in Ireland there are some trees and shrubs, such as the Witch Hazels, Forsythia and the Cherry Trees where delicate flowers appear before the emergence of the tree’s leaves. The brief visit of these fragile flowers reminds us that life is beautiful, but fragile. Life is beautiful, but life is fragile. We all share a common home. We know from our experience of life that God can bring new life from the ashes of the most complex of situations. As we now enter the painful and prolonged uncertainty of grappling with the Coronavirus, we pray that this will be a shared undertaking for the benefit of all humanity, a time when we realize that we are one family living in our common home. Amen.
· Bishop Dermot Farrell is Bishop of Ossory
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678