Let us allow this pandemic to be the force that transforms the world
Entertainment has come to take on a central role in many people’s lives, becoming so important as to have replaced personal interaction with neighbors and friends. I’m old enough to remember the day when neighborhoods were filled with homes sporting large front porches. On hot summer nights families would be sitting on their porches, sipping lemonade and waving at passing neighbors who were actually out for a stroll. Now we all have air conditioners, and front porches have been replaced with private back patios, where no one can see us. Gone are the days of neighborliness.
Even in our spiritual lives we have tended to live in isolation. Many Christians have chosen to reserve their prayers to issues revolving around finances, or regarding health matters, or that of a family member. Yet we rarely think of the importance of corporate prayer with family and friends, apart from the Sunday Liturgy. Prayer has become a private matter, rarely shared with others.
So, now that we’ve collectively created an age of self-exile, we enter into a pandemic, where we are forced into an extreme exile, living alone in our homes and apartments, forced to distance ourselves even from our closest friends and relatives. Perhaps this forced exile should be seen as a wakeup call, even allowed by God for our ultimate spiritual benefit, for it has gifted us with the challenge of reaching out to those very people we’ve been too busy to acknowledge.
Now we have the God-given opportunity to reach out to the elderly neighbor, who because of the danger of the Covid-19 virus, dare not shop at the grocery store, and who is deprived of spending a Sunday with their friends in the parish, or an afternoon with their grandchildren.
The little neighborhood children who have been deprived by the pandemic from playing with other neighborhood children, stuck in apartments with parents who are often on edge with worry about the future, and, sometimes, given over to domestic violence.
So, what can we do? We can offer to shop for the elderly couple, for whom an outing to the grocery store could put them in danger of getting the coronavirus. We can organize a distancing block party for the children of the neighborhood, leading them with songs and laughter, all from a safe distance. We can encourage our church community, with an online fundraiser to sustain the parish during a time of greatly reduced financial support, given the fact that people are not purchasing candles, or dropping money in the collection plate.
We can make a special effort, each and every day, to call someone we know is likely all alone, and suffering from depression because of forced isolation. We can even put aside our own sadness, and send a friend a youtube comedy that would lift their spirits, or a video of a favorite musical group that would bring a smile to their face. We can FaceTime a friend or neighbor, giving them the opportunity to visually see someone who loves them.
Perhaps best of all, we can seriously start praying for an end to the suffering of so many people around the world, and ask God to use this pandemic as the vehicle by which we see real change in our own heart, so that we come out of this isolation with a renewed commitment to making a difference in our world, spreading the joy of Christ to our family, our neighbors, our community, and even into all the world.
Now is possibly the best opportunity most of us will ever have to become true, Christ-centered, individuals, who really care for others, and truly love God. By looking beyond our own fear, our own loneliness, and our own despair, we can become agents for ushering in the Kingdom of God. Like Saint Seraphim of Sarov, by acquiring inner peace, a thousand around us will be saved.
With love and blessings,
Sunday April 26, 2020 / April 13, 2020
Second Sunday of Pascha: Antipascha, St. Thomas Sunday.
“Sladkoe lobzanie” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos (9th c.) (movable holiday on the Antipascha).
Hieromartyr Artemon, presbyter of Laodicea in Syria (303).
New Hieromartyr Stephen (Bekh) bishop of Izhevsk (1933).
Virgin-martyr Martha (1941).
Martyr Crescens of Myra in Lycia.
Martyr Thomais of Alexandria (476).
Martyr Demetrius of the Peloponnesus who suffered at Tripoli (1803).
Martyr Eleutherius of Persia (4th c.).
Martyr Zoilus of Rome (4th c.).
Venerable Martins, abbot, of Clermont (Gaul).
St. Martin the Confessor, pope of Rome (655) (Greek).
Martyrs Maximus (286), Dada and Quinctilian at Dorostolum in Moesia.
St. Martyrius, archbishop of Jerusalem (486).
St. Guinoch of Buchan.
Martyr Theodosius (Greek).
The Scripture Readings
The Great Commission
16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Continuing Power in the Church
12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch. 13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. 14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. 16 Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
Imprisoned Apostles Freed
17 Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, 18 and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. 19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.”
The Apostles Commissioned
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Seeing and Believing
24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
That You May Believe
30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.