Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Though I don’t know where this theatrical verse comes from, it certainly carries a great weight for us on our spiritual journeys. I’m sure it was meant in reference to sweethearts. It speaks powerfully of our longing and desire to have communion with the Lord. In the gospel today, we once again go back to the Upper Room on that first Holy Thursday night. The Seder has come to an end. Something extraordinarily new and mysterious has happened – the Master washed the disciples feet (the new commandment); He feeds them with His Body and Blood (the Holy Eucharist); and empowers these sinful men to continue His presence in the world (the New Priesthood). Now He has a heart-to-heart talk with them to prepare for His departure. Hearts that just moments ago had been in ecstasy are now troubled, sad, and confounded. Silently, they must have asked themselves. “what’s this all about – where is he going?” Almost reluctantly He pulls them even deep into the mystery of who He is. Jesus’s words speak of a longing to be once again at the Father’s right hand. In His humanness, He experiences the “absence” of unity and oneness with the Father. He knows it is coming, by Way of the Cross, and prepares the way for all who follow Him to have that longing fulfilled.
At the encounter with Mary Magdalen at the tomb, He tells her that He is ascending to the Father. In a sense He can’t wait for that reunion – the absence has intensified His longing. Perhaps the absence we are experiencing now is intensifying our longing for God as well. Maybe we, even just a little bit, has started to take God’s Presence for granted. This “absence” reminds us of not only do we miss Jesus, but also feel we are running on “empty.” We are famished for Our Eucharistic Lord.
The good thing is that we know He will indeed feed us again. How more intensely we will relish that communion. How much more faithfully we shall recognize Him in the Breaking of the Bread. Even though we, for a time, cannot partake of Our Lord in the Eucharist. We certainly can meet Him in His word. These days allow us to become ever more familiar with the Sacred Scriptures – The Bible, both Old and New Testament. Reading, meditating on the Word and praying have always been the practice of Catholics in what is called Lectio Divina – the divine reading. Not only will this sustain your spiritual life, but also prepare you for a greater appreciation of the Sacraments wherein Christ is present to us.
Every Catholic home should have a Bible (be sure it’s a Catholic Bible with all 73 books) which reverently has a place on a family altar (perhaps a special prayer corner in your house). Along with the Bible, there should be a Crucifix, Holy Water (always available from your parish): and an image of our Lady (the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary would be the best); individual rosaries and holy cards and a place to put your petitions to God. The family altar can be the heart of the domestic (home) church). Here families and individuals gather to pray and receive strength and consolation daily.
Mothers, who have that special gift from God to make a house a home, can certainly bring her imagination and creativity to bear in fashioning the family altar. Just as Our Blessed Mother made a home for Jesus and Joseph, mothers should call upon Her guidance in this loving task. May God bless all mothers as they shelter and comfort their families through the days of our confinement.
Easter Blessings Upon All,