05 Apr 2020

Live-streamed from St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney

Where do we fit into the story of Jesus’ last week and what might it say to us in the present pandemic? Well, let’s start with THE SICK, THE DYING and THE DEAD from this pandemic. So far COVID19 has claimed 60,000 lives, one of them this past week an English Dominican I knew. Well, in Christ’s Passion story there is sickness, dying and death also. Jesus prays in the garden, “My soul is sorrowful to the point of death”, and He sweats blood. A melee follows in which a guy is injured. Jesus is tortured and bleeding, hung up with two others for humiliation and slow death. The crucified, like those with COVID, struggle to breathe, have a feverish thirst, and die of asphyxiation.

In Jesus, God is in total solidarity with us in our vulnerability and suffering, even descending into the ‘hell’ of the dying and dead. The challenge for our Church and community, despite present restrictions, is to find ways to be more present and helpful than ever to the sick and dying and dead. For they are there alongside Christ in Holy Week and He is with them right now.

The Roman Miracle and Veronica's Veil - YouTube

How about our heroic HEALTH PROFESSIONALS, PASTORS, CARERS and others endangering and exhausting themselves for others? At the Last Supper, Jesus washes His disciples’ feet. In the fracas in the Garden, He heals the wounded servant’s ear. Even from the Cross, He comforts His grieving mother, His lonely friend, the man dying in the ‘bed’ beside Him. Some also care for Him. The women of Jerusalem wail and Veronica wipes His bloodied face. A soldier gives Him vinegar to dull His thirst and pain.

So, too, the challenge for us right now is to provide healthcare and pastoral care, of course, but also to support those who do these things. Those carers are with Christ in the story of Holy Week and He is here with them here and now.

Then there are the ISOLATED and ANXIOUS, ELDERLY and VULNERABLE, ‘locked down’ in their homes, some feeling alone and afraid. At the end of the brawl in the garden Matthew tells us “all the disciples deserted him and ran away.” Over the following days they cower in the Cenacle, watch anxiously from a distance, deny ever knowing Jesus. Mary and John keep lonesome vigil. The Magdalene, Peter, John, each goes solitary to the tomb. The Lord, too, finds Himself friendless as He prays in the Garden, alone in His prison cell, unaided at His trial, deserted on the Cross. Finally, He’s laid in that loneliest of places, the tomb.

The challenge for Church and society is to find new ways to connect and be there for the isolated, anxious and vulnerable. For in Holy Week they are with Christ and Christ with them.

Others of whom we’re particularly aware at this time are ESSENTIAL SERVICE WORKERS, CIVIC LEADERS and PUBLIC HEALTH AUTHORITIES. They must keep the wheels of economy and polity turning, direct our public safety, and lead us safely as possible to life after the virus. There were those with authority and responsibility in the Passion narrative also. We think of the temple guards and Roman soldiers, of the Governor and High Priest, the Jewish elders and the captains of industry who bury the Lord. Jesus Himself throughout the ordeal remains the steadfast witness to God, to goodness, to truth. Each had a job to do, in difficult circumstances, and some did more creditably than others.

Our challenge is to ensure that essential services continue, and that people are well led and informed. Our essential service workers, civic leaders and public health authorities are there with Christ in His Passion and He is here with them right now.

Daily Bread Pastor Mike Anderson : Mark 15 - Who Crucified Jesus?

Then there are the ORDINARY folk, perhaps with livelihoods evaporating before their eyes, FINANCIALLY, EMOTIONALLY OR SPIRITUALLY INSECURE. So much of their life is now on hold. Some are more panicked, irresponsible or selfish, others calmer, compliant, adaptable. Some have found new ways to be socially present amidst all the ‘social distancing’, as Zoomers and WhatsApplicants. Much of that is there at the first Easter also, save the internet. The crowd seesaws between ‘Hosanna’ and ‘Crucify Him!’, easily led but uncertain. There’s the social distancing of Jesus from the disciples in the Garden, of Peter from the court in the courtyard, of the holy women from the cross. Fleeing disciples, mocking thieves, keening women, gaming soldiers, a poor man forced to carry the cross, a rich one to give up his tomb. There was a great range of characters and reactions then, as there are among us now.

The challenge for Church and community is to include and unite, lead and serve. The financially, emotionally and spiritually insecure, the ordinary and extraordinary Australians, all are there with Christ in Holy Week and He is with them now.

Finally, there are the great PRAY-ERS and DO-ERS of our community, who keep us spiritually on course, who amidst fear and separation build hope and connection, and in response to church closures have made their homes more truly ‘domestic churches’. These are the faithful women and men who follow Jesus to Jerusalem, loving and serving Him, who share in His last supper and garden agony or else keep watch with Him on the street, at the cross, in the tomb.

The challenge for us right now is to be like those praying women and apostolic men, reaching out to God and to others more than ever, giving cause for hope, idealism, compassion. Those who intercede and serve are there with Christ in Holy Week and He is with them here and now.

Whatever the insurers say, COVID19 is no ‘act of God’, even if it is rightly experienced as judgment and opportunity. No, the acts of God right now are the acts He inspires in His faithful people and the wonders of protection and healing He grants at their intercession. Where is God in this pandemic?  He’s with the sick, dying and dead, with the doctors and nurses, pastors and carers, with the isolated, anxious, elderly, vulnerable, with the essential service workers, authorities and ordinary folk, with the pray-ers and do-ers. By the power of this holy week we can join the centurion in declaring “In truth this is the Son of God!” and become, ourselves, true acts of God, sites of healing and redemption.


Because our current circumstances impede attendance at Mass and reception of Holy Communion: I invite you now to ask God that by spiritual communion you might receive the graces of sacramental communion. Offer this Holy Eucharist and your hunger for it, for your loved ones, yourselves and all the world at this time. God is not limited by our separation.


Live-streamed from St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney

Dear brothers and sisters, since the beginning of Lent until now we have prepared our hearts by prayer, penance and charitable works.

The Entry into Jerusalem, c.1305 - Giotto - WikiArt.org

Our prayers at this time are for all affected by the pandemic: for the dead and grieving, the sick and anxious, the elderly and vulnerable; for health professionals and scientists, workers and those out of work; for our leaders and health authorities. Though we cannot gather for Mass, we have sought by prayer to make our homes true domestic churches, schools and powerhouses of prayer.

Our penances this year have included enduring with courage our physical and financial vulnerability, separation from relatives, friends and colleagues, persevering through challenging circumstances in our work or study, renouncing ordinary sporting, leisure and social life, and being deprived of that Holy Communion for which our hearts hunger.

Our almsgiving this Lent has included burying the dead, caring for the sick and those at risk,  the young and the old, serving those struggling financially or emotionally, reaching out pastorally to the whole community and spending ourselves in leading and serving.

Though we cannot gather physically on this Palm Sunday, we do our best, through live-streaming,  to maintain communion with the whole Church, by watching and prayerfully participating in this celebration of the beginning of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection.

Therefore, with all faith and devotion, let us commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem for our salvation, following in his footsteps, so that, being made by his grace partakers of the Cross, we may have a share also in his Resurrection and his Life.