Celebrating our Faith during COVID-19
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By Bishop Larry Silva
March 22, 2020
[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace (live-streamed in light of Covid-19 shutdown)]
It is absolutely amazing that a virus we cannot even see can bring the whole world to a halt!
We are here in the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in downtown Honolulu, and the church is relatively empty, with the exception of liturgical ministers and the Elect of the Cathedral Parish and their sponsors. The rest of the hundreds of people who would normally be here are sheltered in place, perhaps watching a live-stream of this Mass but not able to be here physically because of the terrible virus we are trying to contain as much as possible. This is a very sad turn of events, but necessary in light of the lives that could be saved by our social distancing.
That little invisible virus has so much power over us! If we could see it, we would be able to better avoid it. We would know who is carrying it, and we could keep our distance from them, and who is not and interact with them without fear. But the fact is, we are blind to this very real threat to our health and to the health of all the world.
As we celebrate this Lenten Sunday, this reality calls our attention to the fact that we can often be blind to our own sins. We can also be blind to the fact that an individual person’s sin can “infect” many others as well. Someone who gossips may be blind to the damage it can do to another person or to a whole community. Someone may steal a little something from a store and be blind to the fact that if a number of people do the same – which is often the case – prices go up for everyone because the store must provide extra security measures and pass the cost on to the customers. People who disrespect authority and insist on doing things their own way can ultimately erode all authority, even their own. Someone who has no respect for life can easily lose respect for those who do not agree. In most cases, however, we are blind to our own faults and foibles.
As Jesus did for the man born blind, he wants to do for us today. He wants to open our eyes to see our own sinfulness and how it saps away our well-being. He wants to take away our blindness so that we can see how our personal sins negatively impact others and infect our world with much negativity. This is why we ask our catechumens, who have been elected for initiation into our Church, to celebrate the Scrutiny. Before they enter the saving waters of Baptism, which will cleanse them from all their sins, we want them to be aware of what is being washed away. Just as Jesus put mud in the blind man’s eyes, so we want our Elect to put the mud of their sins and failings in their own eyes, so that when they are sent to share the Good News, as will be their mission, they can be aware of what is washed away from them in Baptism. What remains invisible may haunt them again, but what they see clearly and admit can truly be washed away.
As we ask our Elect to scrutinize themselves, so we who have already been washed in the saving waters of Baptism and sealed by the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, spend this Lenten season asking the Lord to open our eyes to our hidden faults or to the hidden ways our sins infect the world around us. We have the opportunity to be washed as well in the sacrament of Penance. Even though we cannot gather for large communal Penance services this Lent, as is our custom, our priests are available for individual confessions. We ask the Lord to put the mud of our sins in our eyes so that we know what needs to be confessed and washed away with his merciful word. We also scrutinize ourselves in prayer, fasting, and penance so that our hidden faults can no longer infect us, but we can be set free to live spiritually healthy lives. This experience of mercy can also be infectious and instead of bringing sickness and destruction to the world, can bring it light and peace and joy.
Yes, we are blind to a virus that we know can drain the life out of the world; but it is more dangerous to be blind to a sin that can shut us out of eternal life and cause an eternal “social distancing” that will be more horrendous than the current crisis we are experiencing in our world. But the Lord Jesus is here today to open our eyes so that we may truly see his mercy and love, then go out to bathe the world with his living water and to open the eyes of others with the brilliant light of Christ.