COVID-19: A pastor’s perspective: Embrace Lent Like Never Before
Every Lenten journey from year to year is different. Some are better than others. Some are more memorable than others. Perhaps you will agree that this current experience of Lent, when all is said and done, will be unforgettable and forever ingrained in our hearts.
The coronavirus pandemic really is a call to dig even deeper into our Lenten journey. There is nothing superficial or ordinary to these days. While countless people throughout the world are taking unprecedented steps to protect their physical health, there is an equally urgent need to tend to our spiritual health. It is important that we tend to our relationship with God and the Mystical Body of Christ, especially as we are being told not to go to our customary place of worship.
There is much preparation going on. People are stocking up on food and medicine. They are purchasing toilet paper, sanitizers and disinfectants. People are avoiding crowds not only to keep themselves healthy but also to ensure the health of others and contain the spread of this biblical-like plague.
None of us, however, can afford to give less attention and preparedness to our spiritual health, which transcends this time and place. What can we do to ensure good spiritual health and to keep it front and center in our lives?
I believe that this moment is a call to embrace Lent like never before by focusing more intentionally on the age-old disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Yes, every Lent is different.
First, this unprecedented time calls us to pray harder and more than ever before. We need to pray not just individually but with our families. Given the health risks of being in large crowds and, with all due respect, to the health experts, we need to remember and reclaim the family, the home, as “the first Church.” If ever there was a time for us to come together as a family in prayer it is now. It is vital that families pray the Rosary and read and reflect on the daily readings. Pray!
Second, the onset of this dangerous and deadly virus is a time for genuine fasting. In this particular case, what is different is that we are not choosing the fast. The fast is being imposed on us. No school. No sports. No entertainment. No freedom to be in crowds. No travel. Life is not normal right now, and it won’t be for some time. What may appear as inconvenience and frustration can become, when entered into faith, a sacrificial offering. Fast!
Finally, this surreal time presents a golden opportunity for us to practice almsgiving. We can look in on our elderly neighbors. We can assist those in most need of care and attention. We can prepare a meal. There is so much we can do.
The Good News for us Christians is that what we are embracing is a journey. The length of the journey is now unknown and the extent of the prayer, fasting and almsgiving that awaits us can really present challenges. Nevertheless, because we are people of hope, we know that the journey will ultimately reach a destination. That destination is the empty tomb and the Resurrection. Easter will still arrive. Believe!
Every Lent is different, indeed. What is the same to everyone is our belief that Jesus conquers suffering and death and new life emerges. That faith remains our hope and strength.
FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 15 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.