It has been a year like no other, a difficult, worrying and, for so many, heartbreaking 12 months. It has been a difficult year too for the Church and the Diocese of Kerry with congregations prohibited from attending Sunday Mass and other services, Confirmations and Communions postponed, weddings cancelled and, perhaps most harrowing of all, attendances at funerals limited to just 10 people resulting in some close family members not able to attend.
But, in this special Easter message, Bishop of Kerry, Ray Browne, encourages everybody to keep their spirits up, continue following public health advice, be thankful for frontline workers and others who are keeping the public as safe as possible and be there for each other because, as always, communities are at their best when they are together
If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet,
how much more should you wash each other’s feet? Jn 13:14
WHAT a year! Together, all of us have lived through a year of the coronavirus, experiencing it in our own unique circumstances. The winter months have been particularly difficult. The new green growth of springtime has never been so welcome and it has coincided with the season of Lent. Let us keep our spirits up and encourage one another in following public health guidance.
Thank God for the way so many people have been there for each other. Thank God for the way frontline workers have sacrificed themselves to provide essential services. We are full of gratitude and acknowledgement of how important it is to live lives of generous service. Individually, we are at our best when our communities are at their best.
With government guidance at level 5, and with a genuine concern that we could have another major wave of the virus ahead, it is understandable but sad that we have our Easter ceremonies without a congregation. It is a blessing that you can join in the ceremonies so easily from your home via modern technology.
What we miss is the dual presence: the presence of the community gathered in church and together receiving the real presence at the altar. In some ways, it seems like the past year has been one long Lent. If so, what word has God spoken to your heart through it?
Here are three points to reflect on this Easter 2021:
- Live every day putting your trust in God. In times of great difficulty, in times when life gets us down, we look to Jesus for peace. Jesus’ word to us always is: “Fear not, have peace in your heart, I am with you”. In time of difficulty, regarding health or death, employment or finances, loneliness or depression we sense in our hearts: ‘God is with me, God will see me through – all will be well’. Have basic Christian hope in your heart and trust in God in all things.
* This Holy Week and Easter, joining in Mass from home, seek nourishment at the table of God’s word. The introduction to the Roman Missal speaks of the Liturgy of the Word at Mass: “When the Sacred Scriptures are read in church, God himself speaks to his People, and Christ, present in his own word, proclaims the Gospel” (29). When you go forth from the Easter ceremonies carry words from the scriptures in your heart: the Last Supper, ‘you should wash each other’s feet’; the commemoration of the Passion, ‘This is my body, given up for you’; Easter morning, ‘You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, He is risen …’.
- This year has reminded us that home is where we pray each day. Home is the place where we first received our faith and where we live it. In the home God is present with us. Prayer in the home is the time we spend turned towards God talking to him about our lives and asking his help; giving praise and thanks; asking forgiveness and renewing our trust. Has prayer in the home helped you and your family over the past year? It will be a great blessing if, when this virus is finally a memory, we have a new awareness of prayer in the home.
A word of thanks to our priests and deacons and all who have contributed to the life of our parishes over the past year. A word of thanks to our schools for the great work they have done.
A word of encouragement to all young people looking forward to First Confession, First Communion or Confirmation. We cannot make any plans until we know when we will have congregations in church. The situation is disappointing but the ceremonies will be worth waiting for.
Another group who have suffered are the Leaving Cert students. May they trust that all will be well and, come the autumn, they will be satisfied with the options that come their way.
Thank you to all who have continued to contribute to parish funds and the parish dues for our priests. Keep up the good work. Priests have been greatly encouraged by your faithfulness.
Please remember other local charities and voluntary bodies over the Easter season, so much fundraising has not been possible. All need funds to pay for the basics like insurance, heating, and the overheads of an office. Please, let us not forget the Lenten campaign of Trócaire. If the coronavirus has been hard on us, how much more difficult has it been for the communities Trócaire supports?
Finally, every time we pray over the Easter season let us all, people and priests, remember the deceased of the past year and their grieving loved ones. Have a comforting word for the bereaved when you meet.
In this world and in the next our hope is in Christ: “Christ is Risen, alleluia”. Be assured of my prayers.
Easter photography from St Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney by Valerie O’Sullivan