April 15, 2020
THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER
April 19, 2020
(Also Divine Mercy Sunday)
Our present world is battered and badly bruised as it fights the enemy of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is desperately in need of prayers and the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity (Love). Today we focus on Hope as God’s gift to us for difficult times. And in the second part of this reflection we consider how to make it real for our African brothers and sisters.
The texts of today’s Mass encourage us to be hopeful before our loving God and before our suffering sisters and brothers who are forced to face the Monster of the Pandemic.
The first of the two Entrance Antiphons pushes us in this Eucharist clearly in that direction. The words “like newborn infants, you must long for the pure spiritual milk….” can easily strike us as “like new born infants you must hope for the pure spiritual milk…” Today’s first scriptural reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, 11:1, assures us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
The Second Reading blares “blessed be the God and Father/Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ! By God’s great mercy God has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter). This reading is a good way for us to see how hope is operative. Moreover, hope makes the future intelligible. The one “who believes in the Risen Christ is ‘reborn’; like a sick person now convalescing, he/she forms new projects for the future. Death no longer stands in the way of an infinite horizon; Jesus Christ, a ‘living hope,’ sustains him/her during his/her pilgrimage.” (Saint Joseph Liturgical Bible).
The Gospel shows us Thomas the Doubter, the Hands-On apostle. Do we believe Jesus died and then rose forever? Thomas was quivering as he entered the realm of this question but then he tightly grasped this forever! This is the way many of us respond to this question and it is reassuring to know we do not have to be perfect to come to the Risen One; this really gives us hope! The Gospel calls for us to have a blessed faith that is real but not necessarily a faith based on seeing! This is a faith of hope!
It can be safely said at this point that today’s scriptural material explicitly or implicitly points to real hope not only as revelatory about the future but as needing action as the follow-up. And this action must be begun NOW!
Conjointly with the above, then, do we solidly believe the Eucharist/Mass is the best place to meet this Christ of Hope? Including today’s Mass!
Furthermore, hope is a Loving God’s freely given grace; and hence it leads us to where we cannot go on our own. The Gospel today makes this abundantly clear! And faith and hope do not work independently. Hope operates after faith reveals the truth to us. Faith shows and hope desires what is shown. And, lastly, hope is not real if it does not prompt us to act.
We are now in the Easter Season. Of our liturgical year which will continue to celebrate the huge beautiful gift of Easter that hope is because of what our Brother Jesus did and does for us. May God continue to bless us all with this New Life, a Life Forever! Amen!
How do we make all the above real and not just leave it as a beautiful vision of what could be, given the present state of our planet now? Right now I cannot help but think of something very beautiful in our Tradition. It is this morsel we all know! “I asked Jesus ‘How much do You love me?’ ‘This much,’ He answered, and He stretched out His arms and died.”
Our sisters and brothers in Africa look to the Jesus incarnated in us and they ask us “How much do you love me?” Can we say “This much” as we stretch out our arms?
Where does the above come from? The other day (April 10, 2020) I was looking at the day’s newspapers our house gets in my efforts to keep up to date with the pandemic horror (which has become the centre of Resurrection Centre’s present ministry) and I ran across the following article in The Globe and Mail: “Africa must not be ‘neglected’ in the fight against novel coronavirus, officials say,” page 15, April 10, 2020. It caught my attention because the media have given very little coverage of the African situation and because Africa, for the most part, is very poor. As Catholics we are called to follow our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who reaches out to every part of the world to bring Christ’s Good News. As good Catholics we cannot let the world neglect Africa in this pandemic and we need to know what is happening in Africa too.
Most of the material below comes from this article and I hope you will be shocked at what you read; for me it was a real eye-opener, because things there are so bad that they cannot be the will of God!
“African officials objected Thursday [April 9, 2020] to the global jostling to obtain medical equipment to combat the coronavirus, warning that if COVID-19 is left to spread on the continent the world will remain at risk” (ibid.). The African Centers for Disease Control and Protection have made it clear that the world can become very unsafe if Africa is forgotten: hence people elsewhere cannot responsibly think that they can control the virus in their countries but not in Africa. “This is a matter of survival and we dare not fail” (President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa).
Needed equipment in Africa is scarce. WHO (World Health Organization) has stated fewer than 5,000 intensive care unit beds are available across 43 of Africa’s countries. “This is about 5 beds per one million people in the reported countries compared to 4,000 beds per one million people in Europe” (WHO).
Functional ventilators in public health services across 41 countries number less than 2,000 (“a severe shortage for patients in respiratory distress”). Africa also needs testing kits and protective gear for frontliners. As well, 48 of Africa’s 54 countries are now having testing capabilities but the testing is really only available in the capital city or the bigger cities. WHO has stated there is an “urgent need” to increase and expand testing in Africa.
Community transmission is emerging in the continent and it must be controlled. And “some countries might face a huge peak very soon.” At the present time, about 20 countries in Africa have closed their borders and “several are now under lockdown to try to prevent the virus’s spread.”
Much more could be said here but the above is sufficient to make the point. Let us end with the following material:
- Note the disparity here between the rich parts of the world and the very poor parts of that same world. As believers we cannot ignore this! Remember that today is Divine Mercy Sunday! This disparity must be overcome because the centre of our Good News is that we believe and proclaim that Jesus Christ died and rose forever for everyone on the face of the earth. The above disparity’s existence proclaims He really did not die for everyone but for a privileged class. Said in other words, if we do not work hard to erase this disparity, our Gospel of the Resurrection of Christ stumbles and falls before the disparity! We then make it a false Gospel! God forbid!
- Our liturgical scriptural texts demand action and not just faith or hoping is what we see in today’s Mass’s scriptural materials. Hope is not real if it does not prompt us to act! This is God’s will as we face today’s pandemic in terms of the Truth and the Gospel today! Very hard but very true!
- The Risen One scripturally and existentially identifies with the poor. The African continent is the world’s poorest continent. How can we possibly ignore them without rejecting Christ Himself in that process?? So we must take what was said in the first part of this meditation and make it real for our African brothers and sisters! So, what are we going to do to help them fight the pandemic? What are you going to do? What am I going to do?
- So what is Christ’s call here to us? What does Social Justice demand of us in this very difficult situation?
- Something we can all do is to write our Federal Government to give more aid to Africa. Write our Prime Minister himself – he does take these matters seriously.
- DECIDE TO GIVE A HEFTY DONATION FOR THIS CAUSE FROM TIME TO TIME, e.g. every three months. You can do this in a number of ways by exploring groups who already have African connections; call the group up and ask how you can do this. Here are some of the groups you can try: Red Cross, Knights of Columbus, WHO (World Health Organization), Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Chancery Office of your diocese or archdiocese, Catholic Women’s League, the Vatican, others you can think of, etc. I would have liked to dig up all these address on the internet and list them here for your convenience but this would take more time to do and it would put off the information given you here in these materials reaching you and thus delaying the time of a situation that needs help yesterday! So please search out this information yourself. Thank you very much! And God bless you for doing this.
- Another big positive thing you can do in this area is to telephone your pastor and ask him to set up a way to get the parish to help.
- And, lastly, pray, pray, pray and pray some more.
May God grant us His/Her Spirit to help us in all this!