“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some …”Hebrews 10:23-25
During his March 20 morning Mass, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to confess their sins directly to God if they could not make it to see a priest. This was a life-saving announcement during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a life-giving announcement to believers worldwide.
Our church does not have a tradition of making confessions to a priest, but so many of our other traditions involve face-to-face interaction and hands-on contact. We serve one another communion by tearing off hunks of bread, we raise our voices together in worship, we pass the peace of Christ with a handshake, and we even baptize one another in the Atlantic Ocean from time to time.
Breath, touch, and the sharing of food and drink are timeless elements of community worship. I found myself missing those elements these last two Sundays. I found myself missing all of you, even though we were able to connect virtually.
Don’t get me wrong, I found the online services beautiful, and I am grateful to the team that pulled it all together. I am proud of our church for taking steps to protect our vulnerable family and neighbors during the viral outbreak. But I know I won’t be the only one with tears in my eyes when we find ourselves in a room together again.
We talked about physical contact and presence in our small group last week, which met via a Facebook video chat. We were all so happy to see each other after a stressful week of isolation, but it wasn’t quite the same as sharing a meal at one table. We didn’t get to experience the joy of cooking for one another, and our kids didn’t get their usual sniffs and kisses from Mia the dog.
I doubt any of us chose to give up human contact for Lent, but here we are, deprived of something many of us took for granted. We don’t know when this particular season will end, but how sweet will the day be when we meet again?
I miss the passing of the peace. I miss hugs. May we always savor togetherness the way we do on that first Sunday.