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Donnybrook Parish

passon 2Pope Francis gives his extraordinary blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) in an empty St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 27, 2020. The blessing was livestreamed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Passion: Walking with our Suffering Human Family in Hope

Fr. Gerard Ryan, S.J.

There is a solemnness to these days. We intentionally and carefully maintain social/ physical distancing. Our geographical reach is now limited to our homes or a two kilometre distance from where we reside. Within these physical and emotional restrictions, we are invited to feel part of a wider community, not only through national frames of vision, but international ones that recognize one single human family. But how might one achieve this generous and universal vision of one family when one’s own world has been restricted, when countries outbid other countries for medical personal protective equipment (PPE)? What practices can increase our solidarity these days with the one human family, especially as we enter Holy Week.

The Passion of Christ, that we read today, emulates the suffering of so many in our own country and in our world. The first practice toward the building of solidarity is the commitment to recognize those who are suffering amongst us. In doing so, we reject individualism and privatization. We re-commit our imaginations, our fears, our sufferings, our prayer and our hope to a wider community of relationships.

Those relationships make up our local neighbourhood, our local church, our city, county and country. Our recognition of those who suffer extends beyond our island to our fellow citizens in the EU and beyond the EU to the whole world resident in our global village. Recognizing those who are suffering at this moment—the magnitude of our health crisis that stretches across the globe—we approach God with that ‘emptiness’ described in the second reading.

On my own accord, what difference will my prayer make? Are we not all worn out and heavy carrying the weight and fear of this pandemic. The words of doubt enter our minds and spirits.  Suddenly we hear the gentle, hopeful and warm words of the Bishop of Rome and successor to St. Peter, Francis, in his address during the extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing : ‘In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side’.

Our emptied prayer is now a hopeful proclamation. When we pray the simple words ‘Jesus, please be with us and rid us of the plague’, we pray with great earnestness born from emptiness, but we recognize in our simple prayer of intercession the gentle droplets of grace infusing our prayer and transforming words into a chorus of hope, joined by the Spirit with the prayer and hope of every man, woman and child on this planet.

As we walk through this Holy Week, we keep before the suffering Christ and our suffering human family. We are worn down and empty, but we know too that we are Christians that have been given the gift of hope for our God lives amongst us and he is carrying our griefs and helping us to express our Christian hope.

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