There were a couple of noticeable differences between our isolation/lockdown announced by Boris Johnson earlier in the week and those of other nations. The first of them was a definite reluctance to be strict with the UK public by using enforceable powers and fines or arrests. There has been so much said about trusting the public to remain 2 metres apart, to take responsibility for self-isolating, to only go out if absolutely necessary. Other countries have been rigid and strict in imposing fines and threatening their natives, here it has been all about entrusting the spirit of the people of our nation – more on this in the Gospel reflection later.
The second of them has been the focus on allowing people to go out and exercise once a day. Even when the big announcement came earlier in the week to shut shop on virtually everything and lock the country down, concessions were made for people to get out and walk, cycle or run just as long as they stuck to certain rules. I wonder whether this is proof that the momentum behind Mental Health awareness is getting through? There has been lots of talk about loneliness for those self-isolating for long periods, worry about how young people will cope being unable to go out and see friends. In response the community volunteer responders has a section for making regular calls to check up on people who are having to stay home for a prolonged period. There is also the wonderful ‘rainbows in windows’ initiative, taken up by so many children. These rainbows created by children bring joy and cheer up those walking by. In a Christian context, rainbows are a sign of hope and redemption, a symbol of commitment from God to look after humanity. As I’ve walked around with my children they’ve taken so much joy from seeing other children’s rainbows in windows (they’ve even forgotten about missing school and their friends for a moment!).
These are the readings for this weekend and leading us into the final build up to Holy Week. Maybe you could use them, the reflection question and task(s) below in your household this week to unite ourselves in prayer:
First reading: Ezekiel 37:12-14
I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live. The Lord says this: I am now going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel. And you will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil; and you will know that I, the Lord, have said and done this – it is the Lord who speaks.
Second reading: Romans 8:8-11
The Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you. People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God. Your interests, however, are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him. Though your body may be dead it is because of sin, but if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself because you have been justified; and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.
Gospel: John 11:1-45
There was a man named Lazarus who lived in the village of Bethany with the two sisters, Mary and Martha, and he was ill. It was the same Mary, the sister of the sick man Lazarus, who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. The sisters sent this message to Jesus, ‘Lord, the man you love is ill.’ On receiving the message, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.’
Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judaea.’ The disciples said, ‘Rabbi, it is not long since the Jews wanted to stone you; are you going back again?’ Jesus replied:
‘Are there not twelve hours in the day?
A man can walk in the daytime without stumbling
because he has the light of this world to see by;
but if he walks at night he stumbles,
because there is no light to guide him.’
He said that and then added, ‘Our friend Lazarus is resting, I am going to wake him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he is able to rest he is sure to get better.’ The phrase Jesus used referred to the death of Lazarus, but they thought that by ‘rest’ he meant ‘sleep’, so Jesus put it plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there because now you will believe. But let us go to him.’ Then Thomas – known as the Twin – said to the other disciples, ‘Let us go too, and die with him.’
On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to sympathise with them over their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’ ‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her ‘will rise again.’ Martha said, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said:
‘I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’
‘Yes, Lord,’ she said ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in a low voice, ‘The Master is here and wants to see you.’ Hearing this, Mary got up quickly and went to him. Jesus had not yet come into the village; he was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were in the house sympathising with Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who followed her, Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, ‘Where have you put him?’ They said, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept; and the Jews said, ‘See how much he loved him!’ But there were some who remarked, ‘He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?’ Still sighing, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening. Jesus said, ‘Take the stone away.’ Martha said to him, ‘Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day.’ Jesus replied, ‘Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said:
‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer.
I knew indeed that you always hear me,
but I speak for the sake of all these who stand round me,
so that they may believe it was you who sent me.’
When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’ The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free.’
Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed in him.
QUESTIONS TO REFLECT UPON…
How is the balance in our own mind of hope and faith VS doubt and worry? Which is stronger?
Do you feel like you are filled with spirit at this moment?
How can you become ‘spirit filled’ and allow God to live in you? What practical things can you do for others…in your immediate surroundings…in the community…beyond?
Could you try list to make a list/poster that everyone in your house can see and contribute to. Fill it with any good deeds or positivity that you encounter (personally or on social media, etc) this week.
Have you put a rainbow up in your window?
Can you take some time to share in a task/game/activity that you usually wouldn’t get involved with for the benefit of another person
I’m sure all of you who have been trying to stream a Mass live have now been able to find one online. If you want a full list of the ones I shared last week, they are on last week’s Chaplain’s blog. However, for this week I’d like to share two with you. Fr Chris at St John’s, Bath has a live stream for weekday and Sunday Masses (10am) for those who wish to enjoy the comfort of our own community and see a familiar face – https://stjohnsrcbath.org.uk/. The second parish I’d like to share is one from my own home Diocese of Lancaster. If you are on facebook you can search for ‘St Josephs, Lancaster’ and stream Mass live with Fr Philip Conner (10am). Fr Philip is an old friend of the family who is the most wonderful man and a great preacher.
Mr M Robinson