This is a painful but necessary decision. The number of people infected in Australia continues to climb and we only have to read about the devastating impact of the virus in Italy, where thousands of doctors and medical staff are infected and many of them are dying, to know that we have to take swift action.
Every day the situation is changing and new restrictions on worship, funerals, weddings and baptisms have been imposed, based on the latest Government protocols.
We are trying to do all we can to get ahead of the disease and maintain the health of the people.
But that does not take away the sadness of course.
In John’s gospel account of Jesus taking a man born blind and healing him, there is much about light and darkness and Jesus is seen as the light which dispels the darkness.
The blind man is an image of someone who went from probably a situation of despair; he was born blind, he had never known colour or shape, never seen those configurations in his life.
He probably had a very diminished view of the wider world and Jesus restores his sight and the one who was blind can now see and he ends up with this affirmation ‘Lord I believe’.
There are different forms of blindness that can beset any of us. We can have the blindness of selfishness, the blindness of materialism, the blindness of prejudice and hatred.
Although it’s a tragedy for a person born blind it’s probably worse if a person has eyes and refuses to see. And we can be a bit like that in our world around us, failing to see the beauty that’s there, failing to see the goodness of others and I suppose in a way this epidemic that’s amongst us is challenging us to look again at who we are as a human family.
They say a child with the eyes of faith sees more than the smartest scholar who has no faith. People of faith see a dimension to reality, we see a truth beyond the phenomena, we see the reality that is there behind what the physical looks like. We know there is a love that guides our purposes.
‘You were darkness once but now you are light in the world, act like children of the light’ (St Paul to the Ephesians).
So in this challenge may we do that, especially for those who do not have the forms of communication that many of us have such as computers and iPads or smart TVs.
We can try to help people to have devotions at home such as live streaming of Mass and provision of online prayer resources. But for those who don’t have access to the internet or are not tech-savvy, it will be important for parishes to find more conventional ways of communicating.
This might include dropping a note in someone’s letterbox. Or people could have a list of five or six people to ring every day, five or six elderly or lonely people just to keep them as part of the human family because this does force us back to who we are, what our purpose is in life and what are our priorities.
May the example of the man born blind who came to the light of faith encourage us as we affirm our faith in the presence of Christ amongst us and through all difficulties.
The shout of Easter, ‘Christ is truly risen!’, is the call that reassures us that all suffering, all diminishment, even death, has been overcome and conquered by the One whose love will lead us to the fullness of life.
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