Sunday thoughts: September 2020

By Monsignor John Devine

As a young priest in Skelmersdale I took Holy Communion to the housebound every ‘First Friday’. In those days few people had phones. That was no handicap. Each person expected me on the same day at the same time each month. They waited with a little altar prepared and candles lit. I entered and left each house in silence. Conversation with the priest was avoided. It was considered disrespectful to the Blessed Sacrament. 

One Friday I couldn’t make it. Changing the day required a visit to each person in advance, this time without the Blessed Sacrament. We were free to speak. Gallons of tea were drunk. It was a revelation. I heard their stories, their anxieties and their joys. I related to them as fellow human beings. Looking back, I realised that I had allowed the Eucharist to become a barrier to my recognising the presence of Christ in each of them. This wasn’t what the Lord had in mind on the night before He died.

Throughout the lockdown our churches have been closed. Some still are. There have been live-streamed Masses. These continue. Expressions of appreciation fill my in-box. There is a common theme. Many of those deprived of Holy Communion speak of their discovery of the Lord’s presence deep within themselves; a recognition that frequent reception of the Eucharist obscured. Furthermore, cut off from their friends whom they met every week at Mass, many have discovered a solidarity in the faith with others that transcends closed doors and isolation. 
Our lockdown period coincided with Gospel accounts of Easter. Closed doors were no obstacle to the Risen Jesus. On Pentecost Day the locked doors of the upper room were thrown open. Peter and Paul both went on to spend time in prison. Locked up or set free, the faith flourished.