Kia tau te rangimarie ki a koutou
Two weeks ago, at his usual Wednesday Audience Pope Francis said, “Mass cannot simply be ‘listened to’: it is also an incorrect expression, ‘I am going to listen to Mass’”. Mass cannot merely be listened to, as if we were just spectators of something that slips away without our involvement. Mass is always celebrated, and not only by the priest who presides it, but by all Christians who experience it. And the centre is Christ!”
This week as we have gone into Alert Level Two through most of the country many questions have again been raised about Ash Wednesday celebrations, Sunday Masses and how we participate and celebrate when we are limited to 100 people gathering. Sadly, some people have protested that the Government cannot legislate or tell us whether or not we can have gatherings for Mass. I wish to make the point very clear that any of the actions put in place are about keeping everyone safe, about protecting everyone from the virus and making sure that we all do the things which are going to prevent the spread of this virus and its deadly effects.
It is natural that people are disappointed that we have not been able to gather for Ash Wednesday ceremonies. Lent is a very significant time of the year. Even if it is a Season of Penance, we appreciate acts of penance, deeper prayer, paying close attention to the Word of God and growing in goodness and holiness. We know that we need these times. Just because we cannot gather does not prevent us from praying as individuals and families, from taking new initiatives and recognizing that as Pope Francis has said “And the centre is Christ!” Lent is about doing things differently in order to make Christ the centre of our lives. We did not get the chance to make alternative arrangements for Ash Wednesday as the Alert Levels changed very suddenly, but that should not prevent us from doing something a little bit different throughout the rest of Lent. We can take this challenge and turn it into an opportunity to pray creatively, listen more attentively to the Scriptures (in families, bubbles or just two or three gathering together, Christ will always be with us.
Whatever happens over the next few days or weeks please remember that we have a responsibility to keep one another safe, and that however we look to be renewed in our hearts and minds, Christ is always with us.