How many times over the course of the past year and a half have we longed to be rid of certain phrases which have held us captive in various ways. Phrases such as lockdown (the worst I think!), social distancing, sanitising and mask wearing. The pandemic has caused us all to navigate the road to recovery littered with good, bad and sad experiences. From communal help and solidarity with acts of kindness and love, to the death of loved ones without family present , to battling with the darker side of our natures such as addictions, domestic abuse as well as misinformation and disinformation about vaccines. Through all of this we needed to keep hope alive and, as Christians, we maintained hope in better days through our faith and trust in God even when our churches were closed.
An example of keeping hope alive here in Ireland is the story of a 107 year old lady called Nancy Stewart. She wrote a letter to the country during the last lockdown which went viral through our country’s media. Very simply, Nancy was born in 1913 and has lived through the worst the 20th century could throw at people her age: WWI, the Spanish Flue, Irish war of Independence and civil war, world economic depression of the 1930’s, WWII, cold war etc.. In spite of this catalogue of awfulness, Nancy references the pandemic and tells us not to loose heart. She said eventhough she is 107, she feels as young as 50! Her healthy optimism, she tells us, is down to contact with family and friends, praying the rosary, watching online Masses and ….. tea! Nothing like a cup of tea, a chat and a laugh. If Nancy lived on the continental mainland, I’ve no doubt the tea would become coffee! She said she wrote the letter to tell people that this pandemic will pass and we will live in happier times again.
Christian hope always keeps the long view in mind, the view of eternity. Here in Knock at Ireland’s International Eucharistic and Marian Shrine, Our Lady appeared with St Joseph, St John the Evangelist and the Lamb of God to give hope to a people living in desperate times. To tell them that no matter the struggles of life, God never forgets us. This outlook of hope is echoed in this feast of the Assumption. We believe that Mary, because she played such a crucial role as Mother of God in the history of Salvation, was taken body and soul into the presence of God. Mary’s importance as a result is not limited to giving us hope about the afterlife but she also gives us hope in the face of everyday struggles and as we pass through these pandemic times. Rhyming with the Magnificat in the Gospel, she is the woman who exemplifies the Lord doing great things for us, she delights in the Lord’s choice of her to be mother of his Son and her spirit soars because God has not overlooked her. Therefore, God does not overlook us. God did not cause this pandemic, but rather, through our prayers and our God given scientific ingenuity, through the development of the vaccines, we are looking forward to better days ahead. He has done great things for us.
Hope then is not the turning of a blind eye to the strains, difficulties and failures of life, it is, like Mary, trusting in God so much that if I do fail now, I will not fail forever. If I am hurting now, I will be healed. If I am finding life very difficult now, I will always be accepted by God. Let our souls proclaim His greatness and our spirits exult in Him who is our saviour – I have no doubt Nancy Stewart would agree!
Eurovision Mass From Knock Basilica
Sunday, 15 August 2021