Feeling abandoned? Go to Jesus in prayer
April 16, 2020
We have come through a particularly trying Lent. Easter is here. But for many of us it doesn’t seem like Easter. Holed up in our homes away from friends and co-workers, unsure of the future, scared as the pandemic peaks in many parts of the country, we are having a hard time experiencing Easter joy. How can we enter into the spirit of this most holy season?
On Easter Sunday, we heard the words of St. Mary Magdalen, which echo in our hearts, “They have taken the Lord … and we don’t know where they put him” (Jn 20:2). Without the Eucharist, unable to gather with our parish family for Mass, we feel that God is distant, even lost to us. But Mary Magdalen was mistaken. No one had taken the Lord from her. He had gone willingly to the cross and the tomb. By his own power, he had risen. What looked like abandonment was actually the means to greater communion with God.
We can find Easter joy when we realize that no one has taken the Lord from us. Neither has he abandoned us. Though we cannot receive him sacramentally now, he is very near. He will make his presence known.
Mary Magdalen shows us how we can meet him when we are confined to our homes. Traditionally, she was identified with Mary of Bethany. We read, Jesus “entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak” (Lk 10:38-39).
We can still sit and listen to Jesus while we are quarantined. In fact, we have a unique opportunity to do so. Public, liturgical prayer is not the only way to come close to Jesus. “But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Mt 6:6).
Our fellow parishioners will not be there, nor a priest, nor even family. We may be isolated from them, but we are not isolated from the Father, Son or Spirit. God sees us when we pray alone. He hears us. And he speaks to us.
Our inability to go to Mass gives us the opportunity to learn how to commune with God as we sit alone at home and pray with the Scriptures. We can read the daily Gospel prayerfully, ponder its meaning under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and ask the Lord to reveal himself to us through what we read. How is the Lord speaking to us now? Are we taking the time to listen? Are we looking for him where he has told us he can be found?
In Tuesday’s Gospel we learned that Mary Magdalen saw the angels at the tomb, but she continued weeping. She saw Jesus himself, but did not at first recognize him. Once she did, he said something astonishing: “Stop holding on to me” (Jn 20:17). Jesus would not be with her in the same way he was in the past. He needed to ascend into heaven so he could send the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps we too need to begin relating to Jesus in a new way. In the quiet of our rooms, alone with the Scripture, he will reveal himself to us. We can be with him at any time of day, any day of the week. Jesus is not in the tomb. He has risen! In prayer, he gives us his Holy Spirit. Knowing how we long for him, he says to us, “Do not be afraid … there (you) will see me” (Mt 28:10).
Connie Rossini is a member of St. Peter Parish in Omaha. She is the author of “The Q&A Guide to Mental Prayer,” now available at amazon.com, and five other books on Catholic spirituality.