Holy Week 2020 has been … interesting for the Church in Australia. On the one hand, most of us are facing a rather peculiar Easter in front of the TV, holding a candle and hoping for the best.
On the other, Cardinal Pell has been freed from prison – and he was deprived of the sacraments for longer than we were.
It’s hard not to have a laugh at God’s sense of humour, and I realised this morning that I’d forgotten He had one.
God’s blank pages
During my morning prayer on the morning the High Court handed down its decision I took up my copy of Adrienne von Speyr’s The Passion from Within. This is one of my favourite Holy Week spiritual readings; it’s harrowing but full of insights.
I asked God if He could show me something in Scripture or spiritual reading that would really help me at this difficult time.
So God very solemnly told me to turn to page 48. And there, on page 48 of my edition (Ignatius Press, 1998), was a completely blank page.
God likes blank pages. He likes silence. He likes spaces in which to work. He likes gaps in things. (Most of the physical universe is gaps between things, which is a big hint.)
We need our priests
We’re having one such gap right now, and we’ve discovered some interesting things about the Church. First of all, it can’t survive without clergy. We are getting by on a spun-gold network of faithful priests celebrating daily Masses all alone.
And while the Church looks foolish without the laity (as St John Henry Newman observed), it can certainly continue in hard times without them physically in church.
What it’s also showing each of us is whether we really want the sacraments or not. Some of us have found the dispensation from Sunday Mass rather too comfortable. Others have been fretting and ill-tempered, because we know there’s something very important missing in our lives.
Things we’ve learned
We’ve learned that our church leadership is very quick to respond to the state’s orders. I am not going to wade in, but I’m going to leave you with that thought. There’s a whole spectrum of Catholic opinion on this question, and I hope we have lots of public debate about this.
We could probably take it to the Plenary Council, except that they’ll be busy promoting the thrillingly relevant topics of inclusive gay deacons and salaried parish leadership positions for everyone’s bossy sister-in-law.
Spiritual communions, perfect acts of contrition, and Mass on TV are not what the Lord intended for us. He intended real things: breath and bodies; oil and wine in our wounds; flesh and blood for us to eat; water and fire to purify us.
God gives real gifts. He doesn’t just give promises and symbols and occasional empty threats. He is a Lover, not a politician. He is a real Father who is there for the hard times, not some mystery uncle who pops in from time to time.
And thank God for that. Really, I mean it. Happy Easter!