Introduction adapted from last week.
As we all seek to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and protect one another, especially the most vulnerable, Catholic bishops and other religious leaders have wisely suspended liturgies and events for the time being. This time of physical distancing will be difficult for all of us, including those of us who are “church” – a people who “gather” – who are “called together” as the Body of Christ. This time of vulnerability is also coming during the Season of Lent, when we seek to grow deeper into God’s mercy and love.
Each week, I will be posting a short reflection drawing from our Sunday Gospels, biblical images, liturgical spirituality, and Christian tradition. But the main point of this weekly resource is to suggest some resources to enter into prayer – forms of prayer that help us connect with others using technology, but also forms of prayer away from a screen. Though we may not be able to gather together, surely we all need to pray at this time – to keep Sunday holy; to allow Christ’s presence to build up the faith and hope within us; to direct our attention outward to those most in need.
As we seek to protect the vulnerable, by doing our part to lessen the spread of COVID-19, so too our prayer can center us in Christ who, as we hear in this Sunday’s Gospel, is the light of the world. And it can allow us to embrace our mission as disciples who care for our families, friends, and for those most vulnerable, as God embraces us.
Reflecting on the Readings
Praying with the Readings: Consider reading and praying through the Sunday Readings with this Prayer Path from St. Louis University (click here) – the “prayer path” from Anne Osdiek includes links to the Sunday readings themselves. Another great page on this site, drawing from Liturgical Press’ Living Liturgy series, offers key words and phrases to focus your prayer (click here). What other words or phrases from the biblical readings resonate with you and your anxieties, fears, hopes, or yearning right now? This is a good way of starting what is often called lectio divina, praying with the Bible. If you’d like to learn about lectio divina, you might try Father James Martin’s video on lectio divina for America Media.
A Reflection for FaithShaping This Week: As with last Sunday’s Gospel (the Woman at the Well), this Sunday’s Gospel of the Man Born Blind is a powerful story of encounter and connection. We know what this is like right now, and in coming days may yearn for it more!
In this extraordinary time, we are a bit like the man born blind: we cannot see what comes next. And yet our faith tells us that, like him, the works of God can be made visible through us. In the midst of this man’s own “social distancing” as an outcast, Jesus breaks through and touches him – our God always breaks through and embraces us with tenderness. Indeed, this is what has happened to us in baptism: like the man born blind, David in our first reading, and the psalmist of Psalm 23, we have been caressed and anointed with God’s love.
There is challenge here too: to be a baptized follower of Jesus, the Light of the World, is to see in a particular way – to see with Jesus’ eyes. Like Samuel (first reading), Jesus does not judge by outward appearance, but sees the inward dignity of the most vulnerable. Isn’t this what we are trying to do in this time with physical distancing? We are taking steps to protect ourselves and our families but, especially, to protect the most vulnerable. Perhaps we can take some time this week to reflect on how our actions are, and can be, a way of living our baptismal discipleship as “children of the light” (Second Reading). We might consider, for example, how we are living out one of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching: Care for the Poor and Vulnerable (click here for a brief video from Catholic Relief Services to learn more).
Entering into Prayer: Keeping Sunday Holy
Diana Macalintal at liturgy.life has again prepared a simple form of Morning Prayer (click here) and Evening Prayer for this Sunday, which you can print out for you and those in your household, or pray online. Thank you to Diana for showing us how praying Morning and Evening Prayer can be a central as a way of keeping the Lord’s Day, even when we can’t gather for Eucharist. For families, Paul Canavese and Ann Naffziger have prepared Worship@Home prayer services for families, which you can access here. More resources from Paul and Ann for families during this time can be found here (consider downloading and making a donation). Also, I would humbly offer intercessory prayers which I wrote for this Sunday, which can be used by individuals and households, perhaps after proclaiming one or more of the readings and a time of faith sharing.
Additionally, in this time of isolation: the periodical Give Us This Day (which is available in print on my parish’s kiosk each month), is graciously offering, for free, a digital copy (click here) of this publication for morning and evening prayer, along with daily Mass readings and reflections. This resource is printable, if you want to get away from your screen. Free access to their app is also available.
Many parishes and musicians have graciously recorded live prayer events online, which are available to watch, listen to, and pray with – and you can even print out your worship aids so you can pray and sing along. See the collection at the One Call Institute for some of these events.
Finally, in the last week there has been an explosion of parishes, dioceses, and communities streaming Mass online. While I highly recommend some of the prayer forms above, watching and praying with Mass online is helpful for many in staying connected as a Eucharistic parish and Catholic family. Some of these options include:
- CatholicTV’s watchthemass.com, for daily and Sunday Mass
- Daily Mass from Saint John’s Abbey
- The National Shrine in Washington, D.C.: live stream of Mass at 12pm EDT here and then archived here
- Already established diocesan projects for the homebound, like Diocese of Youngstown’s CTNY – this is a good time to remember those who are served by these projects on an ongoing basis
and touched us in our pain.
Text: Copyright © 2020 Justin Huyck. All rights reserved.
Ando, Tadao, 1941-. Interior of the Church of the Light, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55848 [retrieved March 21, 2020].
JESUS MAFA. Jesus cures the man born blind, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48383 [retrieved March 21, 2020]. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact).
Last Photo: Environment for Taize Prayer, prepared by youth participants of Music and Liturgy at Pyramid Lake, Diocese of Albany