Fr Oskar Wermter: In Lockdown, We Are Disembodied
By Jesuit Father Oskar Wermter – Communication — getting in touch with each other — has been conducted for some time now without letters (which will be a great loss for the generations after us) and increasingly also wireless, even though it has been more intensive than ever before, due to Internet technology.
During this time, due to strict restrictions by state and Church authorities, communication is even body-less. We live a disembodied existence.
To keep a safe distance is now prescribed as a means to choke the coronavirus epidemic. Maybe the British people do not mind this very much, but people from Africa or the Mediterranean countries miss touching, hugging and shaking hands.
The bodily expression of mutual sympathy and love, if it is done in all honesty, often says more than many words.
Jesus was a man of words, but he expressed his Good News also through signs and gestures, and he was not afraid of touching others.
Jesus did not just say, “I will be with you to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20), but also gave us the visible sign of his invisible presence, of the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, which we can receive and actually touch by hand.
Church is present in its members
The Church is not just an idea, a theory. She becomes present in the members of the Body of Christ. That is why it is painful for us just now that church buildings, where we normally assemble, have to remain locked up, or can only be used to a limited extent.
So we can no longer celebrate the Last Supper, a meal of the farewell and of the beginning of a new presence of Our Lord, as a community.
The healing Christ is at work in the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Visiting our loved ones when they are unwell is for us a great need.
It is very painful for us, that at this time of the pandemic we have to leave them alone. The priest may not even make the sign off the cross on the forehead of the elderly, the sick, the frail and children, or anoint sacramentally the sick with blessed oil as a sign of the presence of the healing Lord (Mk 6:13). We are aware of the danger of infection, so refrain from that visible gesture.
This time of “disembodiment”, when faith and meditation of Holy Scripture have to take the place of being in communion with one another and receiving Holy Communion, is going to teach us a lot that can be of spiritual benefit (such as the use of the new social media) to the Church, even when eventually the danger to our lives has been banned.
Perhaps it will show our newly-baptised Christians how vitally important the “body” of the Church is and how precious the sacraments are as a sign of the presence of the Lord, even if at this time we have the Lord present only spiritually because of this enforced “disembodiment”.
At such a time we need more than ever visible and palpable signs of charity: coming to the aid of sick neighbours, sharing what we have with the needy, to appease their hunger.
After all, we are not that “disembodied” that we can live without bread.
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