Looking on the bright side

In these times it is important to remember that the trial of being separated from the Mass and the Sacraments can still be fruitful and we should look to God’s intention for this. I think we aren’t wrong to question why our shepherds caved so readily to secular authorities — sometimes even before they have been ordered to but we also need to remember that God has a plan in all this. I think this reflection from Pope Benedict XVI many years removed from both current events and his Papacy is helpful.

“Saint Augustine in his last sickness, very conscious of being at the moment of death, excommunicated himself of his own accord. In his last days he sought solidarity with so many sinners suffering from this situation. He wanted to meet his Lord humble like them in their hunger and thirst, he who had written and spoken such beautiful words on the Church as the community in the communion of the body of Christ. This gesture of the Saint causes me to reflect. Are we not perhaps too inconsiderate in receiving the Blessed Sacrament? Would not a spiritual fast perhaps be of use sometimes — perhaps even necessary — for a deepening and renewal of our relationship with the Body of Christ? Obviously here we are not speaking of the specific spirituality of the priest who in a special manner lives from the daily celebration of the Sacred Mysteries. But let us not forget that, already in apostolic times, the spiritual fast of Good Friday formed part of the Eucharistic spirituality of the Church and that this fast on one of the holiest of days, without Mass and without Communion of the faithful, was a profound expression of participation in the lord’s passion, and in the sadness of the spouse in the absence of her Spouse (cf Mark 2,20). I think that in these days also such a fast, intentional and endured, could on certain occasions be meaningful (e.g., on days of penance or in Masses where the number of participants makes a worth distribution of the Sacrament difficult), and could thus deepen personal relationship with the Sacrament and moreover be transformed into an embrace, into an act of solidarity with all those who long for the Sacrament but cannot receive it. I think that the problem of the divorced and remarried but also that of intercommunion (e.g., in mixed marriages) would be much less hard if sometimes this spiritual fast were a recognition that all of us depend on the healing of love brought about in the extreme solitude of our Lord’s Cross. Naturally I do not intend to propose a return to a form of jansenism: a fast presupposes the normal case of eating, in the physical and in the spiritual life. But sometimes we have need of a remedy for our sense of routine and our distractions; sometimes we need to experience hunger — spiritual and corporal — to appreciate once again the Lord’s gifts and to understand the suffering of our brothers and sisters who are hungry. Bodily and spiritual fasting is a vehicle of love.

Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger),
Journey Towards Easter, pg. 141-2

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