Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On 23rd March we marked one year since the government gave us the order to stay at home to save lives. On the national day of reflection organised by Marie Curie millions of people and hundreds of organisations paused for a minute’s silence to reflect on the tragic loss of life due to Covid19 and to remember too those who have been bereaved. The impact of a virus no one had heard of fifteen months ago is shocking; we hear the UK statistics every day on the television news, the worldwide ones less often, but it is said that worldwide there have been some 2.79 million deaths from the virus. I would not be surprised if the number is an understatement. Every one of these represents a person and a grieving family.
One year ago, few people could have imagined the effect a virus could have on our church life together, and, of course, on our family and social lives. If my sums are correct there were 25 Sundays during the past year when we were unable to celebrate Mass together in church. For some of that time we were not even allowed into our church to pray. And even though we can now congregate once more in church there are so many things which have changed. We look forward to the day when we can sit next to each other, see each other smiling, sing heartily in church, when we can once more share the peace with each other, once more kneel at the altar rail to share the body and blood of Our Lord, once more rejoice in each other’s company over tea and coffee after Mass.
Depressing as it is to hear the daily statistics, I believe that one effect of the publicity has been to make a lot of people more aware of their own mortality. The virus has been no respecter of personages. We have just come to the end of the Lenten season, and in my Ash Wednesday sermons I often say that Lent is a good time to reflect on our mortality as we hear the words ‘remember you are dust and to dust you shall return’.
But sad though it is when anybody dies, recognising our mortality is no reason to be gloomy. For death and life are at the heart of the Christian faith. As this magazine comes out, we are passing through the cruelty of the cross and despondency of Good Friday, the emptiness of Holy Saturday to the joys of Easter Sunday when we rejoice with our risen Lord. And we know that through his death and resurrection Christ has released us from the bonds of sin and death. He promises us a life after death different from but better than the life we have in this world.
Some people might have felt during the past year rather like the disciples on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, with feelings of loss and little hope. But thanks to the God-given skills of our scientists and medical researchers, our doctors and nurses, and the efficacy of the covid19 vaccinations, we have every reason to be optimistic for the future, for light to overcome the darkness as on Easter Sunday. And come what may, we know from St Paul that ‘neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’