Up Front and Personal

Outbreak Has Given ‘Lent’ to the World

By Father Christopher Heanue

Lent is meant to be a challenging time during which we deny ourselves material goods in order to grow closer to God. On Ash Wednesday, only four weeks ago, we could scarcely imagine how challenging these 40 days would be.

The COVID-19 outbreak and the precautions associated with it have denied all of us many material goods. We have also been forced to distance ourselves from family and friends, to deny ourselves the good of human interactions that we usually take for granted.

For many of us, this has been a “desert experience.” In Chapter 16 of the Book of Exodus, we read: “Then Moses told Aaron, ‘Say to the entire Israelite community, Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’ While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.”

In this passage, we are reminded that the Lord does not abandon those in the desert. Rather, he hears our “grumbling” and is present to us: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight, you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’ ”

During these days of self-isolation, many of us are “grumbling” in various ways. It is unsettling to see streets desolate, stadiums and concert halls shut, and gatherings of all kinds discouraged.

Though self-isolation is painful, it can also help us to appreciate more deeply our need for community and our own role within the community.

God has bestowed upon each of us unique gifts. He created us to share our talents with our fellow citizens and thus to contribute to a more just and charitable society.

Lent is always a challenging time for Catholics preparing to celebrate the great feast of Easter. This year, the whole world has been given a “Lent,” a time of self-denial. Christ Himself knew deprivation during His earthly life, especially during his 40 days fasting in the desert.

May He strengthen all of His followers in faith, hope, and charity as we confront the challenges of these days.

Father Christopher R. Heanue is the parochial vicar/administrator of Holy Child Jesus Church, Richmond Hill.

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