Sebastian was almost beyond consolation when his grandfather died. Nothing seemed to be able to distract him from his all-consuming grief. Despite people trying their best to comfort him, the ache latched on to his first thoughts when he awoke and stayed with him for the rest of the day.
He was normally a philosophical and upbeat character. There is, however, no rehearsal in life to equip us for the raw pain of the death of a loved one. Regardless of any previous experience, a death is always a unique occasion.
As the day of his grandfather’s funeral approached, Sebastian, who had hoped to be able to do the Readings at the Mass, was feeling so very unhappy that he confided in advance to the celebrant, Father Andrew. The priest took hold of Sebastian’s hands. ‘Just cling to Jesus,’ he said. ‘Cling tightly to Jesus.’
These simple but profound words sliced through Sebastian’s grief. He repeated them to himself, constantly, during the ensuing days, and again as he climbed up to the lectern to read for his grandfather. In the years since, whenever he has encountered a problem, he calls to mind Fr Andrew’s words and he has indeed clung tightly to Jesus.
We are in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of people have died from it across the entire world, and many more are extremely ill. Covid-19 is all-embracing. It does not discriminate, afflicting people who were previously well and those already sick. It is sweeping greedily, ruthlessly and relentlessly through all age groups.
Relatives and friends cannot travel to be at the side of their loved ones, either in sickness or in death, and nor can they meet in a group to comfort one another. Life as we knew it bears no resemblance to life as it is now. Churches are closed. We are celebrating Mass and other services and devotions online. Shops, businesses, restaurants, gyms, schools, universities … almost everything is shut and we are on lockdown across the entire globe. Most hospitals are at breaking point and others are gearing up to cope with the sickness which is, almost inevitably, going to come their way.
History has not seen this happen before and we know not what the future holds. We have no precedent on which to base our calculations, estimations or predictions, but we have endless examples of utter heroism from countless people: health service workers, police and fire services, delivery drivers, shop workers and so many more individuals across all walks of life.
Regardless of what is happening, and no matter how much better or worse things may become, our wonderful God does not stop loving each of us more than we can ever realise. In these uncertain times, His love for us is our only certainty. We have to continue to trust Him and echo the words of St Peter: ‘Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.’ (John 6:68)
For many, this has been an opportunity for spiritual growth as we have been afforded this extra time to pray and to reflect on the Scriptures. Extra time to ponder what our faith really means to us, this precious gift of God, and the life and the love of Jesus. In Psalm 26 we are asked to ‘Hope in him, hold firm and take heart. Hope in the Lord.’ Now, more than at any other time in our lives, we must ‘Cling to Jesus. Just cling tightly to Jesus.’