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Lent began as it does every year, but the Pandemic of the Coronavirus outbreak has disrupted our usual rhythm. If we had thought to live peacefully the forty days that would lead us to Easter, we are now called to live through another quarantine, that imposed by the political authorities to comply with public health measures and contain the epidemic. What a coincidence! Etymologically, sanitary quarantine means 40 days of strict confinement and then, by extension, any more or less long period of confinement due to an epidemic. But Lent is also 40 days, but days of prayer, fasting, and charity. Perhaps this coincidence invites us to open wider our eyes and our hearts to address, this time in a renewed way, our approach to this time which will lead us to the light of Easter?
The coronavirus epidemic reminds us of an obvious fact: everything on earth is fragile. Vanity of vanities, everything is vanity. Perhaps we have placed our hope in the number, strength, power, health, and success, forgetting that our help is the Name of the Lord and Him alone? We have sinned. Fortunately, life goes on and hope remains strong despite everything. Today, in this epidemic, there are treasures of generosity and fraternity at work. Their authors are not all Christians, but they participate fully in God's beloved Church of Heaven. The prophet Daniel says: "But with our broken hearts, with our humbled spirits, receive us as a burnt offering of rams, bulls, fat lambs by the thousands. Let our sacrifice on this day find grace before you, for there is no shame for those who hope in you." The sacrifice that pleases God, says Psalm 50, is "a humbled spirit, a broken heart". Perhaps the experience of frailty and weakness that we experience in this time of distress is an apprenticeship in humility. In a Christian regime, humility sometimes comes through humiliation. We are not untouchable, we are vulnerable. We are not gods; we are men and women marked by fragility. God too is vulnerable because He is merciful. In this time of Lent, we have a concrete experience of our sin and of God's kindness. Our Father and Creator have a generous heart because he forgives. Let us also learn to forgive!
I pray that this time of quarantine, this time of Lent, will be a time when we can renew our concrete solidarity. Solidarity with the sick - there are some in the Assumption -, solidarity with the caregivers, the isolated, the elderly. I would also like that this time of confinement in which we are, in a way, cloistered, could also be the occasion for a rediscovery of a deeper intimacy with God. A time when prayer is no longer a formality, but a passion for the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. A time to give thanks, because while Christian communities are deprived of the Eucharist and the sacraments, we have the privilege of celebrating together every day. Like Teilhard de Chardin who said his "Mass on the world" as he traveled through Asia, we could celebrate in communion with all the men and women men and women strike by the epidemic.
Confinement imposes on us a penance that is difficult to bear. Staying enclosed is sometimes hard to live with, but Lent asks us to live fasting, penance, deprivation. We can unite ourselves with all those in the world who are afflicted by hunger, injustice, war, and persecution. The epidemic could be transformed into a vast impulse of generosity and fraternity. The Lord will not abandon us, and we shall have to experience even more fully the joy of the Resurrection!
Fr. Benoit Griere, a.a.