It does seem Holy Lent, in some ways, has passed very quickly this year. Perhaps because the new normal, in particular with parish churches closed, has disrupted things externally. Nothing, of course, can disrupt the actuality of the Lenten season of grace.
While I took time from writing, to focus on prayer for the human family and my own mental health, and for this I am grateful to the Holy Spirit and Our Lady, the stress eased.
In my earlier years I could spent extensive periods of time in a hermitage deep in the bush. Now however given I am in mid-seventies; under obedience I am an urban hermit. I do understand the paradox of being a hermit in a city. Prior to this new normal only leaving the hermitage for the necessary such as daily walks, or taking the bus, for groceries, medical appointments. Then I was among people, walking, traveling. Often someone needed to be listened to. No need then to deliberately keep, it is after all an act of charity, distance from anyone.
So, once by the grace of God I faced this new normal – the isolation, the keeping charitable distance when out walking, family can only visit via phone or internet, the stress is what it is. All is grace. My family, bless them, protect me given I am by age in the most vulnerable group. When they go for their groceries, if I need any, they get mine.
This isolation it is an aspect of the cross – no one has ever been as isolated as Jesus on the Cross – to be embraced as prayer for an end to the very existence of this silent mass-murderer, the virus, and pray for the millions of our brothers and sisters likewise stressed.
While taking the break I continued to pray for, to follow, Pope Francis. His words for us during this time are of hope and encouragement. 
This evening I have the chance to enter your homes in a different way than usual. If you allow me, I would like to have a conversation with you for a few moments, in this time of difficulty and of suffering. I can imagine you in your families, living an unusual life to avoid contagion. I am thinking of the liveliness of children and young people, who cannot go out, attend school, live their lives. I have in my heart all the families, especially those who have a loved one who is sick or who have unfortunately experienced mourning due to the coronavirus or other causes. These days I often think about people who are alone, and for whom it is more difficult to face these moments. Above all, I think of the elderly, who are very dear to me. 
Pope Francis also in the past week has encouraged us to turn to St. Mother Teresa – who often like many saints said: I know God won't give me anything I can't handle. – and St. John Paul II: I am happy to be with you this morning at the Martyrs’ Shrine in Huronia. My pastoral visit to Canada would be incomplete without meeting the sick and elderly who are so close to my heart. When I think of you, I am reminded of the words, of the Lord spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "You are precious in my eyes, because you are honoured and I love you" (Is. 43, 4). Indeed you are precious in the eyes of the Lord and in the eyes of the Pope. You hold a place of honour in the Church for, in a particular way, you share in the mystery of the Cross of Christ, the Cross which in faith we know to be the Tree of Everlasting Life. Suffering and sickness, and death itself, are part of the mystery of life. But while they remain a mystery, they need not be without meaning. In Christ and through his Passion and Resurrection, all creation has been redeemed, including all human experience. In fact, in his Passion Christ used suffering and death to express in the fullest way his obedient love for the Father. And now, in union with Christ our sufferings can become an act of love for the Father, a loving act of surrender to the providence of God. 
This evening with the Divine Office of Vespers we cross the threshold into Holy Week.
Leiva-Merikakis reminds us, through His death, passion and Holy Resurrection: …Jesus does not merely gather up in Himself all strands of human and divine authority and power. Even as He does so, He also gathers up in Himself all levels of human misery and suffering, so that the plight of man and all his anguish now come to reside in the Heart of Jesus, which is to say, the Heart of God. 
Jesus Himself is our hope and we our His beloved: Seeing that we have a great high Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, to receive mercy and to find grace for help in time of need. [Heb. 4: 14-16]
 FIRE OF MERCY HEART OF THE WORLD, Vol. III, p. 354; Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis; Ignatius Press 2012
© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph
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