Today I share with you what is most definitely a personal reflection. Please read it in that light!
When I was a school chaplain I remember walking with the Head through the school during holiday time. He paused for a moment and said “Aren't schools wonderful without the children!“ He didn’t mean it of course, he was one of the most dedicated teachers I have ever known, - but we all know what he meant.
I count myself so fortunate. Unlike almost all of you I have been able to receive Holy Communion regularly as I have offered the Mass throughout this period of lockdown and isolation. The mass has been offered for you all almost every day. This has, for me brought many thoughts and emotions to the fore.
Please indulge me as I share a couple of my thoughts with you on this great feast of thanksgiving for the gift of Body and Blood of Christ.
First, I give renewed thanks to God for the gift of Sacerdotal Priesthood, and for the immeasurable honour of being a part of the eternal offering to the Father of the once for all sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross. In a strange way, I am almost ashamed to say, the absence of a congregation has allowed me to think on that in a way I have rarely ever done before
You see, as a parish priest, in the regular offering of the mass, for me, (though I am sure not for all priests) I can so easily find myself distracted. Not less intentioned or configured I hope, but distracted by so many thoughts. I worry about things I have not done and people I should have contacted or visited. I worry about more mundane things too of course, like money and the heating not working. Sometimes I even find myself slightly annoyed as ‘those two keep talking through everything!’ A wise priest once told me off for beating myself up about being distracted in this way, even when saying mass.
He said “Don’t you realise that in this way you are bringing all of these people, all of these things into the offering of the mass?” He was right of course. In some of the Eucharistic Prayers of the Church there are spaces for the inclusion of specific intentions even names. They are not to be seen as distractions. Nevertheless the guilt goes on!
But for this time, I must confess to a renewed sense of the wonder and deep deep privilege of what I am called to do. I offer mass for you all now and I long to offer it together once again. I do not for one moment think of you all as distractions!!! But the different experience has allowed me to think in a different way. I want to humbly thank you that even in the midst of your hunger for the Sacrament, I for one have found that God in his love offers a little gift.
Second, I think this time might just make us all appreciate our life in the Church, and our participation in the Mass especially, a lot more. Now we are missing our common worship so much it might be good to realise how we take it for granted.
Let’s be honest, we have all come to worship unprepared and left un-thankful. We have all been lazy about how we have supported our parish and it’s ministry. Through these weeks we need to be reminded of how much we take for granted. We have a beautiful building in which to worship. We do not need to travel far to get to it. We have regular opportunities every week to go to Mass.
Our Lord is perpetually reserved in our church and we can go almost any time to sit in his sacramental presence. Our parish has regular, full time ministry. For huge numbers of Christians these things are an impossible dream. Many many Christians in other parts of the world cannot imagine our good fortune. In some parts of Africa for example the faithful must walk literally for hours to get to mass once a month if they are lucky.
For Christians in an increasingly large part of the world worship is a dangerous occupation. Christians in some countries risk death to worship.
As your parish priest I use this sad time as an opportunity to renew my priestly devotion, and I thank God for the enormous privilege of serving Him and all of you. I do hope and pray that in your spiritual famine at this time, you may chance across, no, be lead by our Good Shepherd into green pastures, where your souls might be revived by flowing waters of the Spirit.
Blessed and praised be Jesus Christ, in the most Holy Sacrament;
Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! In excelsis!