Pope Francis holds the monstrance as he gives his extraordinary blessing, “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and the World), from the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. CNS photo/Yara Nardi, pool via Reuters
Pope Francis holds the monstrance as he gives his extraordinary blessing, “Urbi et Orbi” (To the City and the World), from the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. CNS photo/Yara Nardi, pool via Reuters
In the midst of isolation when we are suffering … let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: He is risen and is living by our side.”

Those words from Pope Francis – delivered worldwide March 27 during his extraordinary blessing, “Urbi et Orbi” – focused not only on hope in the Resurrection, but the Lord’s request for the faithful to embrace his Cross.

“Embracing his Cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time,” the Pope said.

Among those hardships is journeying through Lent, Holy Week and into the Easter season without physically receiving the Eucharist during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is an invitation from God to turn to him. This is an opportunity to remind ourselves of what we have, or have taken for granted,” said Msgr. Kenard Tuzeneu, pastor in St. Mary Parish, Barnegat.

“When the tabernacle is closed and we have the altar of repose [on Holy Thursday], that’s intended to represent what people are actually feeling right now – that the Lord is taken away from us,” he said.

Father Edward Blanchett, pastor in Visitation Parish, Brick, agreed.

“One thing God does so well is make good come out of bad situations,” he said. “Obviously, an example is his son on the Cross. As terrible as that was, what did it do? It brought about salvation.

“In a lot of ways, there’s a parallel to that now,” he continued. “Yes, of course this [coronavirus] is a bad thing to go through. But maybe there can be good, too, to gain or regain that real appreciation for the gift that Jesus offers to us at the Eucharist – one that he’s always been offering to us ever since he died for us on the Cross, one that he will continue to extend to us until the day we meet him.”

Msgr. Edward J. Arnister, pastor of St. Rose Parish, Belmar, compared being without the public celebration of Mass to feeling “like the Israelites, wandering in the desert … hungering for food and drink that will sustain them on their journey. 

“God fed the chosen people with manna in the desert,” Msgr. Arnister said. “He feeds us, his chosen daughters and sons, with the gift of Jesus, his son, with his Body and Blood, soul and divinity.

“While we cannot feed on the Eucharist publicly at Mass because of the health crisis worldwide, we know by faith that God never abandons his people. We know that with every cross and tribulation, there will come some grace,” he said.

Father Blanchett was quick to point out that there is always hope, especially since the faithful are called to be an Easter people.

“If we open ourselves in faith and trust during Lent – which in current circumstances has been a time of journeying in the desert far more than a spiritual sense – we might find a surprise waiting for us at the end of that journey. We might find that because of this time of deprivation, of need, we actually lose the spiritual blindness we may have had and come to see the truth.”

Another important point to remember, he said, “We can see Jesus even if we can’t receive him physically. God gave us more senses than touch and taste. He gave us sight and sound. Jesus is available to us through those things as well.”