How frequently have we said, and heard it said, that it is amazing to find our daily lives, needs, crises, reflected in the scripture of the day? We never cease to be surprised by it. This Sunday is no exception.
The readings today are intensely personal. One cannot but feel close to Job, the Psalmist, Paul, Jesus, the disciples and their families. In the first reading, Job’s words are so recognisable – When? Why? We ask: Will we ever defeat this virus? How long will I survive this isolation? How slowly evening comes, how slowly morning? And then that word that has taken on a whole new importance: Breath. The ‘I can’t breathe’, of George Floyd, the knowledge we now have of the use of ventilators, the importance of oxygen, and Job’s, ‘My life is but a breath’.
In the Gospel we meet a Jesus who is the healer par excellence, curing all who were brought to him and casting out devils. In the words of the ‘Alleluia’ verse: ‘He took our sicknesses away, and carried our diseases for us.’ Then what did he do? Long before dawn Jesus went out to a lonely place and prayed there. This was followed by his response to his disciples that he came to preach to the other surrounding towns. This urge to preach and teach is found also in St Paul’s words in the second reading (1. Cor. 9).
In Pope Francis’s recent book‘Let us dream: the Path to a Different Future’ (2020); the pope movingly describes what he calls his own Covid moments and suggests that we each experience times of isolation, loneliness, fear, exclusion, humiliation. It is what results from these experiences that matters. He talks about ‘the importance of seeing the big in the little things and attending to the little in big things’. When we are in normal good health, a breath is but a little thing. We take it, and so much more, for granted. Perhaps we are now living with the opportunity of looking at our lives as a whole, using this new-found, but certainly not sought-after, time and space to see the big picture, the context in which we are living, an encouragement to think more about both God and neighbour, and our God-given planet. Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, who then rose and ministered to them. Jesus healed and prayed, Job constantly turned to God in his pain and confusion. When all have been vaccinated and something resembling the life we used to know returns, how will we look back on these months? Will we see our world differently? How will we have been changed?
Sr Lucina Montague OP