(On Saturday, my CLC group, Our Lady of the Way, met for the first time this year. A month ago, as we looked forward to gathering together, I reflected on the fact that this would also coincide with my 25th anniversary as a CLCer. These 25 years have been a source of love, friendship, spiritual nourishment, and the skills of discernment that helped me to find my purpose, my reason for being here. We had no idea, four weeks ago, that all of these attributes and skills would be needed more than ever. A very unwelcome visitor, called COVID-19 arrived and settled in for the long haul, turning our lives upside down.
With each new announcement and as our lives shut down a little more, our meeting was a light in the darkness. Then that too, was taken away, but we began to fight back. Zoom, an online platform for video and audio conferencing and chat, that NEXCO is using very successfully, is available for all CLC Members to use, and so Our Lady of the Way regrouped. My addiction to modern technology came into its own.
Our opening prayer was the beautiful song I Feel You Everywhere, its lovely words assuring us that in these troubled times God is everywhere:
I feel you in the clouds, I feel you in the storm
I feel you in the cold, I feel you in the warm
there is nowhere I can go and not find you.
We then spent some time in reflection on the poem/prose piece by Kitty O’Meara, that has ‘gone viral’ (pun not intended) And the People Stayed Home. We prayed particularly on the part that reads:
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again,
they grieved their losses,
and made new choices, and dreamed new images,
and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully,
as they had been healed.”
This was compelling for me as I have long grieved the devastation we have wreaked on this beautiful planet we call home: the plunder of our forests; the destruction of animal habitats; the extinction of our unique native animals and birds that are vital to the life of our forests; and the pollution of our oceans, where God speaks loudest to me, and the havoc on marine life. We must learn new ways to heal our world and today I saw a glimmer of hope. A friend sent me photos of butterflies that fluttered over her hanging plants all day, and she remarked on the dozens and dozens of blue butterflies that swarmed all over a flowering gum tree. And my cassia, maligned as a weed, but what I see as a symbol of joy and resurrection, burst into bloom last week and fills me with hope.
Our prayer time was spent with the man born blind. We used a commentary from Terrance Klein, a priest of the diocese of Dodge City. His theme centered on the Greek word aposynagōgos, meaning “expelled from the synagogue.” Our word for “synagogue” is itself Greek for “gathering” or “community.” Here is the verse:
His parents said this because they were afraid
of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed
that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ,
he would be expelled from the synagogue (Jn 9:22).
The fourth Gospel teaches by way of strong, even extreme contrasts: life and death, sight and blindness, light and darkness. For this evangelist, Jesus is the light, who comes into this world. All men and women will divide on one side or the other of this flaming torch.
Just now, we are told to scatter for our own safety. It is wise advice, and it should be followed. But distancing ourselves physically from each other does not mean that we scatter into the darkness of sin and selfishness.
If we choose to live in the light that has come into the world, we will give testimony to it by showing consideration for others, by trusting those in authority over us, by doing whatever acts of love and kindness the Spirit reveals to us.
St. Paul told the Ephesians: “You were once darkness, But now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. For light produces every kind of goodness.” Aposynagōgos was a terrifying word in the world of the early church but living in the light separates us from the darkness. Horrible things happen in the dark when people are afraid. We must now give witness. If we live in the light, it should be evident. Even in a time of virus.
Our sharing on the scripture and commentary was rich and full of hope and trust in God, that we will emerge from our time of darkness and isolation into light, and hope and ready to face, in the recent words of Andy Hamilton: “The challenge will be to resist the pressure to return to business as usual, and to incorporate into our thinking about the economy and our shaping of society what we have learned of the importance of cooperation, communication, trust and generosity — in a word, love.” We closed with a beautiful Celtic prayer and a Blessing Song.
This was a CLC meeting we couldn’t have imagined a month ago. We missed the warmth of being together, the hugs of welcome and farewell, and the friendship and sharing that continues over a cup of tea. What we did not miss out on however, was the love and strength we found in each other, that will continue to sustain us in the months ahead. And, ever ready to meet a challenge and face down COVID-19, we each made a cup of tea and returned to our screens for conversation.