Tuesday, April 14, 2020



O God, who have bestowed on us paschal remedies, endow Your people with heavenly gifts, so that, possessed of perfect freedom, they may rejoice in heaven over what gladdens them now on earth.

That is the opening prayer of today’s Holy Mass in the octave of Easter, the octave being the continuous unfolding of the day of His Holy Resurrection.

In the midst of the darkness of this pandemic, because we dwell in kairos, the Lord’s moment in time, we are dwelling in this moment of eight days moment, in light, joy, love, hope.

By a mysterious instinct, human neediness and divine compassion always have their arms out, extended toward one another, on the watch for the first possible moment of embrace. [1]

While not perfect, what human institution is, Canada and this province, do have a remarkable health care system, as most G7 countries do. I mention this because whenever I am not sure about something, I think about writing I check with my Spiritual Director, as part of what follows I was unsure about. He just said: “Absolutely you must write that.” Spiritual direction these days is by phone, but grace is not frustrated by distance. Never!

So, several days before Holy Week I realized I was not feeling well, procrastinated for a couple of days, until I faced two realities: One if I had somehow gotten the virus the obligation to preserve the gift of life each of us has been given means deal with it. Using a variation of an expression familiar to me from my childhood in Nova Scotia the Premier said the other day: “Stay the blazes home!” That word ‘blazes’ was commonly inserted into various situations when I was a boy such as: “What the blazes are you doing?”, which is exactly what I said to myself because the second reality was, if indeed I had the virus, I was a walking threat to anyone around me.

The Alberta Health Service has an online self-assessment tool which, near midnight, I filled out and submitted. Within a few minutes the phone rang, and it was a clerk, so self-identified, verifying I indeed was the person who submitted the form. I was told someone else would call immediately, which they did, and they identified themselves as an assessment officer. After I answered their questions, I was told remain totally isolated, in a word I was quarantined, and that in the morning someone else would call and arrange a time and place for me to be tested.

The call came in early, I was told when, where and the protocols to observe in the car with whomever would drive me – which a friend did, bless him and his wife because they provided me with a mask and protective gloves. The test took only moments and I was reminded to remain quarantined until I got the results.

To be blunt Holy Week was a visceral experience, even Holy Easter, until yesterday the call came. Test results: negative and I was told, because of my age avoid public transit, going for groceries etc., but observing proper distancing I could go out for walks etc. I beg anyone who feels unwell, please get tested.

The best way to describe the exaltation at the news is I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge, wonderfully portrayed by Alister Sim [2] in the film version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It is the scene were after dancing around with sheer joy he has survived the night, Scrooge in his office says he doesn’t really understand why he is so happy, indeed does not deserve to be so.

Scrooge got it wrong for it is not a matter of deserving happiness or not. Happiness is a divine gift – not the emotion which is a by-product – the penetrating joy. The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it: We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated. How is it, then, that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life, let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you. God alone satisfies. [3]

The times we are in with all the attendant disruption, stress, isolation may cause us to question all sorts of things, perhaps hitherto taken for granted. Rather a normal reaction given what the whole human family has been thrust into. The truth is Love Himself has created us to be beloved, to be filled with joy, to experience hope.

All that Jesus told the Apostles He tells us: I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. [Jn.15:11]

A prayer of joy to Our Lady who is known as Cause of our joy:  Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.  For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia. Has risen, as he said, alleluia. Pray for us to God, alleluia. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

[1] FIRE OF MERCY THE HEART OF THE WORLD, Volume III; pp. 389/90; Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis; Ignatius Press, 2012

[2] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0044008/

[3] https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P5J.HTM

© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph

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