A Reflection on the suspension of Sunday Masses on the Third Sunday in Lent, March 15, 2020

Relic of the True Cross venerated as the Litany of the Saints and prayers for Deliverance are prayed in supplication.

O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts (Ps. 95).

The Responsorial Psalm of the Mass on this third Sunday of Lent is Psalm 95, known as the Invitatory Psalm, the psalm that is always first recited in the official prayer of the Church, the Divine Office: Today, listen to the voice of the Lord: Do not grow stubborn, as your fathers did in the wilderness, when at Meriba and Massah they challenged me and provoked me, Although they had seen all of my works. Forty years I endured that generation… ‘They shall not enter into my rest’.

O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts…Come, then, let us bow down and worship, bending the knee before the Lord, our maker. In some monasteries, where the Divine Office is chanted, at these words, in what is a very impressive sight, the nuns or monks make a profound bow; an act of both humility and docility. The sacred liturgy, as often happens is speaking to us in the concrete situations of life in the present moment that engages us, our today. The world is in the grip of a pandemic and in the interests of public health, ecclesiastical authorities have determined that Sunday Masses not be celebrated. Please God, pastors of souls will not neglect today to offer a private Mass pro populo, along with intercessory prayers for deliverance from this plague.

Nothing happens but God wills it. God’s permissive will has allowed this epidemic to spread and we do well to take what is happening to heart. O that today we would listen to his voice! Let us harden not our hearts! This plague has its origin in Communist China, one of the most repressive and atheistic regimes ever to rule a nation. Dictatorships cannot be trusted. This is abundantly clear as the origin and spread of this virus is weaponized and politicized. One thing is clear; the entangled madness that describes globalism is being revealed for the dangerous and deadly ideology that it is.

To our shame, globalism and its ancillary causes such as environmentalism, population control, sustainable development, transgenderism – to name but a few, these have become our idols; and the hierarchy of the Church to a great extent has taken up these causes as expressions of our Catholic Faith. The work of the Church is the worship of the living God in Christ and the salvation of souls. All of our activities have their origin and purpose in this twofold work. We prefer nothing to the Work of God, that is, the properly ordered worship of God and we practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy to a heroic degree if necessary out of the love we have for God. Everything else is a destructive distraction.

The relative ease with which we have lived our lives certainly in the last sixty to fifty years has made us proud and has only accentuated our foolish pride. The apostasy or falling away of so many Catholics that is characteristic of our times is the result of a radical inversion of the concept of man and our relationship with God. This pandemic makes it abundantly clear that we are very vulnerable and indeed effectively powerless before the forces of nature unleashed upon a proud and rebellious people. So what shall we do? Will we reflect on what is taking place and humble ourselves in prayer for deliverance or will we harden our hearts even more? Will we endeavour to practice Christian charity or will we take advantage of the vulnerable? Will we honestly and humbly repent of our transgressions and sins or will we be defiant in our pride? Will the spirit of sacrifice that has defined the Catholic Church through the ages define us now or will we be concerned only for ourselves?

In my studied opinion, it is above all the eclipse of the Mass as a Sacrifice that has led to the eclipse of the Christian Faith, of the Christian way of life and specifically of the eclipse of the spirit of sacrifice. Our churches are closed but the priests who understand and believe that the Mass is the re- presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary on our Altars will continue to make intercession for God’s people. Unite your prayers to these Masses and in addition to praying the Rosary, pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for the prayers of the Chaplet express the essence of the Mass. We implore God’s mercy to obtain it and to extend to others, especially those most in need of it, as Our Lady asked us to do at Fatima.

Today, listen to the voice of the Lord: Do not grow stubborn, as your fathers did in the wilderness, when at Meriba and Massah they challenged me and provoked me, Although they had seen all of my works. Forty years I endured that generation… ‘They shall not enter into my rest.’ Indocility before the truth of God is always the source of human misery. The Psalm of the Mass records a sinful and sadly repetitive pattern often discernible throughout our own history. After their deliverance from bondage in Egypt, when in the wilderness they rebelled against God and worshipped an idol of their making, among other things, the Israelites denied the agent of their salvation and newfound freedom. They denied the God who in a sense, out of their bondage had created them anew and had given them a new life. They who had received the revelation of the truth about God and by consequence, the truth about man had in the words of St Paul, exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles (Rom. 1:23). Rejection of the truth of God is not without consequence and not without punishment. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness. Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did (1 Cor. 10:6). These are very sobering words because it is possible for us also to fall away, to deny both our natural and supernatural origin in God; and as a consequence to suffer the punishment of God. We too have created idols of our ideas and causes and have even divinized our rebelliousness. Unfettered freedom, liberty and liberalism in all their excesses are the gods of our age. Idolatry is death dealing.

We are being sifted like wheat; and we should consider this pandemic as a warning of sorts. Suffice it to say that the origin of this virus in a country victimized by atheistic communism and its spread throughout an almost equally atheistic world is in a sense a confirmation of Our Lady’s warning at Fatima that communism would spread its errors throughout the world. We have at our disposal the full treasury of the Church’s Sacred Tradition and of Holy Scripture. We must heed the call for the endurancei of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:12). Our Saviour and Lord, the Kyrios of history reassures us as he did the Apostle John, the Beloved Disciple exiled on the island of Patmos: ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades’ (Rev. 1:17-18). God will deliver us from this plague. As we pray for our loved ones far and near, for those who have succumbed to this virus and have no one to pray for them, and for our civic leaders and fellow citizens, let us entrust the Church, our parish and ourselves to the loving protection of our most gracious advocate, our Lady, our Mother and our Queen; trusting in the fulfillment of her promise that in the end, her Immaculate Heart will triumph. May she obtain for us the grace of patient endurance in this our time of trial, final perseverance and fidelity to her words of maternal love: ‘Do whatever he tells you’ (Jn. 2:5). Let us resolve to pray the rosary every day and with confidence entrust ourselves and especially our children and our sick and vulnerable to the loving protection of the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary.