God is with us; he has not abandoned us. The tabernacle lights still burn, even when there is no one there to see them.
This Easter is one we will never forget -- and hopefully, one we will never repeat. Who could have imagined no public Masses during Holy Week, or not being allowed to gather with extended family and friends? It's all been very sad, scary, and frustrating. And yet, I'd argue that our Church has never been more true to herself, more true to who we are as the Body of Christ.
The crisis we have all been living though this year has provided the Church a once-in-a-century opportunity to be seen bringing hope and healing -- not judgment of condemnation -- to the world. And that is what we've done. From the pope and bishops, to priests and deacons, to religious communities, lay ministers, families, and singles: all the people of God at every age and in every vocation have found more and new creative ways not only to practice and express our faith right where we are, but share it with others.
And there is something very powerful about a Church that prays, regardless. It is comforting to know that this Easter, there have been no prayers unprayed. Someone, somewhere lit the holy fire, chanted the alleluia, proclaimed the mystery of faith. Someone renewed his baptismal promises, consecrated the elements of Bread and Wine, spent time alone with God. We may not have been able to gather in person. And yet, we are one in the Risen Lord Jesus. The communion of saints exists on earth as it does in heaven. Every prayer is the prayer of the whole Church. Every offering of worship, every act of love, every moment of forgiveness belongs to all of us.
The truth is, while the tomb has been empty for 2,000 years, our churches are not. They are the house of God, holding the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Real Presence of the Risen Lord. That truth does not depend on congregations of people in the pews. It is the gracious gift of God. God is with us; he has not abandoned us. The tabernacle lights still burn, even when there is no one there to see them.
It has been said that character is what we do when nobody is watching. Perhaps something similar can be said about faith. The faith of the Church is what we do when no one is there to see it. Even more, the faith of the Church is who we are when there's no one there to watch us.
The scandals of recent years have given us plenty of reason for consternation and shame. Recent weeks, however, have given us cause for great joy. If ever there was proof that the Church is not only a human institution, that she is the people of God and the Bride of Christ, we've been witnessing it unfold. And committed Catholics aren't the only ones watching.
It's funny how we find ourselves longing for what we cannot have. That principle definitely applies to people living under the yoke of the current stay-at-home mandates. So, perhaps we should expect that at least some lapsed Catholics, some Protestants, some agnostics -- maybe even a few atheists -- are feeling something they haven't felt for a long time, if ever. They are wondering what it would be like to walk into a Catholic Church. The question may not be so much whether they would come to Mass as whether one of us would invite them.
That's a choice each one of us will have to make when the pandemic restrictions are rolled back. In the meantime, we should continue to leave no prayer unprayed.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.