The fifth Sunday of Lent is called Passion Sunday. Except the cross and stained-glass windows, all images and statues are veiled. We are deprived of their beauty and the consolation they offer to our senses. In the Catholic tradition, it seems that we are no longer given a ‘support’ to our prayers. But are we really left alone?
Not at all. It is like a child when learning how to walk, who no longer has the support of the hand of their parents. From now on, we have to rely more on the efforts of our faith. Things get more and more serious in Jesus’ life. Step by step he is closer to his passion.
So what is the message of this fifth Sunday? First, we have to exercise our most beautiful ability, prayer. We have to ‘walk in our faith’, we have to progress in our love for Jesus and our neighbours. Now without the support of our beloved church, as we are not allowed to enter it because of the corona virus. We are to carry on in our friendship with Jesus without the joy of meeting each other physically. So, in terms of a practical message of this Sunday, we need to pray on a regular basis for the present needs of our society. Prayer for those effected by the virus, and for all those, who work in the frontline is crucial. Lazarus, who was raised from the dead, is a symbolic reminder that through our prayer we must remember them, personally. We must remember the dead of whom we hear in the news. They cannot remain a number, unnamed, and unremembered by the community. Please, let us pray for the deceased every day.
In all this, we are following Jesus. We imitate him when he is confronting sickness, death and separation, weeping along with his friends, and then restoring Lazarus to life and to the bosom of his family and community. Through our prayers, we bring life, consolation, and future joy.
Yes, joy. Passion Sunday reminds us that we must not allow these painful times to derail our faith. Whatever happens around us, we should never lose joy in our faith - even if it is now entering Passiontide. There is a symbolic story, which illustrates well this point. ‘A few months ago, a powerful image of [coming to life] appeared on YouTube. Perhaps some of you have seen this video of a severely deaf baby, Georgina Addison of Harrogate, captured by her father at the moment when her new hearing aids were switched on. The way this beautiful child’s whole being lights up with life and joy at hearing the sound of her mother’s voice for the first time is for me a most striking visual metaphor of how we are all made for the Word of God, and only thrive when alive with God’s life.’ (Laurentia Johns OSB, The Tablet 28 March 2020)
How can we search for this joy, rediscover it, and preserve it? Let it be our personal task for the remainder of this Lenten season. And let this personal quest be grounded in the daily prayer-life of our church.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..