Letter from Fr Michael
Dear Sisters & Brothers in Christ in Guisborough
Prayers and greetings to you at this Lenten time. It is sometimes hard to keep our Lord in focus when we are so disturbed and worried about things which threaten us. The threads of friendship are so important. Knowing that we are loved, and reaching out to others in whatever way we can, strengthens the links. Holding a thought for a moment longer than we usually do also helps. We may be slowed down in these times. But it is important not to stop and give up.
We hold before us the Risen Lord. At Holy Week it is customary to concentrate on the Crucified Christ. In terms of impact - the suffering Christ, the crucified one, commands our attention. The drama of Good Friday pulls us much more than the apparently static Christ standing in his glorified body beside his empty Easter sepulchre. Indeed we have heard pleas that we can unite our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ. We may find consolation there, perhaps.
Most of us have no experience of pandemics. They are not as unusual as we may think: many will have read about the Black Death (October 1347) or the Spanish Flu (1918-1920). During the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918/19, over 50 million people died worldwide and a quarter of the British population were affected. The death toll was 228,000 in Britain alone. The global mortality rate is not known, but is estimated to have been between 10% to 20% of those who were infected. It may be a similar scenario for COVID-19.
From our religious education we probably learned about the disasters which befell Egypt. The Bible calls them ‘plagues’. One of them was a pestilence. This was a disease which decimated the pride of Egypt, their horses, which they used in warfare to dominate the world. The present ‘coronovirus’ is not a plague in the Biblical sense. It is an epidemic disease, and it causes widespread affliction. Plague is a word which comes from the Latin word ‘plaga’ for a stripe or wound. The co-called ‘bubonic plague’ was carried by fleas, and caused ‘bubes’ or outbreaks from swollen, infected and burst lymph nodes. So the present affliction is not ‘the Biblical plague’ as some have suggested. The Latin word ‘pestis’ originally described any contagious disease carried by animals. The animals carried a bacterium which was passed to humans. This gave rise to the use of the word ‘pestilence’.
The Latin word “Corona” means crown. Under high magnification microscopes the virus displays a crown of spikes, which we have all seen. Human coronaviruses were first discovered in the late 1960s The earliest ones discovered were an
infectious bronchitis virus in chickens
and two in human patients with
the common cold
human coronavirus 229E
human coronavirus OC43)
Other members of this family have since been identified, including SARS-CoV in 2003, HCoV NL63 in 2004, HKU1 in 2005, MERS-CoV in 2012, and SARS-CoV-2 (formerly known as 2019-nCoV) in 2019. Most of these have involved
serious respiratory tract infections.
None of this brings us any degree of comfort or relief, but we may have a better understanding. Without downplaying the cost that COVID-19 is making, we are not witnessing the massive scale of death that earlier outbreaks in history brought. Those who are trying to identify and find a cure of this latest mutation of the virus deserve our moral, spiritual, practical and prayerful support. The “round of applause” for health workers surely bears testimony to that.
Interestingly, Pope Francis chose the Gospel of Jesus calming the stormy Sea of Galilee as the context for a recent homily. "Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives," the pope said. "Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them."Like the disciples on the stormy Sea of Galilee, he said, "we will experience that, with him on board, there will be no shipwreck, because this is God's strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things."
The Gospel passage began, "When evening had come," and the pope said that with the pandemic and its sickness and death, and with the lockdowns and closures of schools and workplaces, it has felt like "for weeks now it has been evening."
Let the morning come
Bringing the word of unfailing love
For I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way to go
For I put my trust in you
- Psalm 143.
Saturday, 28 March 2020
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