Emmanuel – God Is With Us
One of the many sufferings for most of the faithful during this extraordinary time is the inability to be close to the Blessed Sacrament. As churches, as well as Eucharistic chapels, are closed for Mass and private prayer, one may feel lost, alone and separated from God. This “social distancing” from our sacred places can increase within us a myriad of feelings such as sadness, anxiety, fear, frustration, and desolation. True, receiving Jesus’ Body, Blood, soul and divinity in Holy Communion or simply spending time in His Eucharistic presence has significant, tangible and eternal effects on us. Yet, Jesus is Emmanuel, God-with-us. His parting words before returning to the Father in the Ascension were, “Behold, I am with you always, even until the end of the age.” These are striking words. Jesus’ promises are true. Jesus remains with us, and we can remain with Him.
During this time of being “socially distant” from church doesn’t mean we’re distant from God. He’s right with us. Jesus reveals Himself to us in countless ways, but let’s count a few together. Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament, in the Holy Scriptures, in the sacraments, and in every baptized person who’s in the state of grace - the Holy Trinity lives within them. Jesus is present to us through one another as He said: “Where two or three are gathered, there I am in the midst of them.” Jesus is also present in the poor as He says in Matthew 25, “What you did to the least one, you did to me.” God is with us – always with us. When you love someone you want to be near them. God loves us and wants to be with and within us.
I was deeply moved by the extraordinary liturgical change the Church made this past Holy Triduum. Usually the Blessed Sacrament is transferred to a reposition chapel after Mass on Holy Thursday and remains “hidden” until the distribution of Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil Mass. The empty tabernacle and extinguished sanctuary candle help us experience the loss of Jesus during His passion. Yet, this year the Blessed Sacrament remained in the tabernacles, with the red candles burning brightly. I believe God wanted us to see concretely that He remains with us and is especially close to us during times of suffering and trial.
On this same Holy Saturday we began a new approach to our soup kitchen. Usually on Saturdays we serve a hot meal at our Father Solanus Soup Kitchen to 60 to 100 people. Due to “social distancing” regulations we’ve had to suspend our soup kitchen. Instead of serving a sit-down meal, we’re now bringing meals to the homeless on the streets where they are. The Lord Himself, hidden in the poor, confirmed the necessary change in our ministry. The very first homeless man we served confidently declared, “God is with us. God is always with us.”
As we continue on this journey of the coronavirus pandemic may we be confident in the Lord’s continual presence, providence, guidance and protection. We are like the Israelites wandering in the desert, whom God led with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. His method of being with us may be different than we are accustomed to, but we can trust that the Lord is faithful to His promise. I pray that a fruit of this trial will be the ability to encounter Jesus in more places in our daily lives. May we exclaim like the homeless man, “God is with us. God is always with us.”
Sr. Elizabeth Marie, CFR