In a challenging final "lockdown reflection" Archbishop Philip asks us to examine our conscience and discover what we have learned during our enforced Eucharistic fast. And he urges a renewed hunger for the Lord present in the Eucharist as we prepare we return to Mass later this week. Full text follows:
I am sure we sometimes wonder why one person believes and another does not, why one person perseveres in the practice of the faith and another does not, why one person goes to Mass on a Sunday and another does not.
Jesus anticipates these questions in his parable of the sower. Jesus too experienced a mixed response to his message. Sometimes his word fell on good soil and at other times it did not. Some people believed in him and others did not. If the Son of God’s words and miracles, his death and resurrection, should elicit only a partial response from his contemporaries, his Church should really expect no better.
While we pray for a generous response to the preaching of God’s word, I imagine it will be this way until the end of time, that the response of faith will wax and wane, that some people will respond generously and others will not or will not be able to. We will let the Lord sort that out at the day of judgement with his justice and mercy.
What is important is our response to the Word of God. We need to be the rich soil in which the Lord sows his word so that we can produce the crop of faith and love, a hundredfold, sixty and even thirty, as much as we can. We need to look not at other people but at ourselves. Are we living the Gospel? Are we faithful to Christ? Are we a good example to our children, our family, and neighbours? Have we absorbed the life of faith so that we produce a harvest of prayer, goodness, and virtue?
We are now emerging from the Covid-19 lockdown. Already our churches are open for prayer and visits. By next Sunday, if all goes well, we will have resumed public worship. We will be able to go to Mass again and receive Holy Communion. It will not be the same as before. It may be tentative and hesitant and, probably for some time, we will not be able to gather in the same numbers as before. But, after four months in a non-sacramental exile, we will be able to gather for Mass and that is a great joy.
How do we want to emerge from this penitential exile from Mass and the Sacraments? In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us one answer that we should take on board. We want to be disciples who listen more carefully to the Word of God and who ask the Holy Spirit to make them the rich soil from which the seed of God’s word can produce a fruitful harvest. In a word, we want to exit from this lockdown as better people and more faithful disciples of Jesus. I hope with all my heart that our 4-month sacramental fast will make those who can, those for whom it is safe, more faithful to Sunday Mass and more anxious to receive Christ in Holy Communion.