By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
“”…let us thank the Lord for having entered through our closed doors with his mercy, for calling us, like Thomas, by name, and for giving us the grace to continue writing his Gospel of love.” (Pope Francis)
As we all hunker down behind closed doors during the current stay-at-home measures in the face of COVID-19, let us sit with our family and engage in Lectio Divina using today’s gospel, John 20:19–31.
While fear fills the hearts of many who are concerned that they may contract the virus, the uncertainty and fear that the disciples felt in the room where they were after Jesus’ crucifixion was perhaps, as Fr Michael McGourty said, “due to concern that the Roman officials might arrest and punish them for being followers of Jesus”.
I remember how I prayed during my two-week self-quarantine that I would not contract the virus after my flight to T&T from London. A friend sent me a prayer to calm my troubled nerves. She wrote: “Do not be afraid. May the peace of the Lord be with you; may He give you peace of mind and calm your troubled heart.” Because of my human frailty, I had allowed fear to fill my heart. But my faith saw me through that rough period.
Note that three times during today’s gospel, Jesus says to the disciples when He appeared to them: “Peace be with you”. Let His peace fill our hearts during this time of turbulence.
When Jesus says to the disciples behind the closed doors: “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you”, remember, as Pope Francis says:
“Jesus sends. From the beginning, he wants his to be a Church on the move, a Church that goes out into the world. And he wants it to do this just as he did. He was not sent into the world by the Father to wield power, but to take the form of a slave (cf Phil 2:7); he came not ‘to be served, but to serve’ (Mk 10:45) and to bring the Good News (cf Lk 4:18). In the same way, his followers are sent forth in every age. The contrast is striking: whereas the disciples had closed the doors out of fear, Jesus sends them out on mission. He wants them to open the doors and go out to spread God’s pardon and peace, with the power of the Holy Spirit. This call is also addressed to us.”
Our Church teaches us that we are one human family. Our responsibilities to each other cross national, racial, economic and ideological differences. Learn to practise the virtue of solidarity. We are all interconnected and interdependent. We all have a common origin in Jesus Christ and should see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all really responsible for all.
There is much that we can do to reach out to those in need. I know from experience that isolation can be lonely. Think of the elderly, the sick, the shut-ins in your community. Now is the time to put our faith to the test.
You can send text messages to them, call them via the telephone, send them emails, contact them via social media platforms, which will allow you to see them e.g. Skype or Zoom.
Never underestimate the power of a cheery voice to those who are lonely at times like these. Read to them from our scriptures, or from motivational literature.
Around the world today, there are many examples of ways in which people are standing in solidarity with each other. Indeed, many acts of kindness are being undertaken during this time—once safety precautions are observed e.g. getting the shopping for the elderly, putting together and distributing food parcels to the needy, arranging for individuals to be able to collect vouchers at specific supermarkets/grocery stores to purchase only food items—up to a certain limit,
organising free online classes to support parents as they seek to educate their children since schools are closed.
And as we play our part, let us remember the Holy Father’s words: “We would do well, today, and every day, to pray these magnificent words,”—My Lord and My God, which the disciple, Thomas, utters to the risen Jesus in today’s gospel, “and to say to the Lord: You are my one treasure, the path I must follow, the core of my life, my all”.
Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel, or, in other words, of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation. (6)
—World Synod of Catholic Bishops, 1971, Justicia in Mundo (Justice in the World)
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee