The Ache of Desire and Fear (in a time of pandemic)

This Homily was given during the final Deanery Chapter communion, St Patricks Day, before the churches were shut due to COVID19

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28)

I’ve been searching over the last few days for a word to sum up the feeling in the air and the feeling inside our bodies, the feeling beyond words of the time we are in. And as I’ve reflected I’ve gravitated towards the word ‘Ache.’ Ache speaks of longing, fear, anxiety hope, desire, doubt, kindness and com/passion. It’s a good Lenten word.

And ‘Ache’ is where we are now… facing the end of certainties.. somewhere holding, poised, hanging, waiting. Its an in/between space, uncertain, liminal, a place of risk and danger – yet a place of discovery too. Absnc/Prsnc. A place of dis/orientation.*

As a church, we may share the anxiety of our communities; where love (for our closest ones) can easily become fear (of others); and yet (if we dare to be open, undefended), we may find a love that overcomes fear… an unlikely grace.

And we might wonder what to say? What response to give…?

And the answer might be that there is no answer, no words, no explanation, no distance, no perspective, no splendid isolation in which ‘to know the mind of God’. No position to speak from at all other than the position alongside others; the courageous and the scared, the vulnerable and the strong, the hopeless, the dying.

Because we are tasked to simply be with our communities. And in the coming weeks we may have to find ways to listen and share and give voice to all those things.. to lament and hope, and maybe that’s our role; ‘how beautiful the feet of those’ who walk alongside people, who slow the pace and offer the space to listen and be heard. It’s what St Patrick’s desire and all ‘mission’ endeavors should be about… being alongside, sharing stories, breaking down the borders and barriers.. the ‘us and them’, and instead sharing the fullness of humanity..

And, in that, we are living – not speaking – this story of life longing and aching in which the Spirit of God both affirms us and haunts us: Affirms us in the moments of love and holy human compassion which will inevitably arise; and will haunt us as we face the spectre of Gethsemane’s silence which may greet the fevered prayers of us all.

This is not going to be an easy time..

So touching then that in the gospel reading, ‘When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.’ (Matt 28.17). These were not vilified or exiled, but given the same mission; the doubters and the worshippers alike – both giving a voice to faith; both orientating to ‘the Immanuel’, the God who is with us; the God who weaves through the depths of our longing, the God who shares the ache of love, and whose hope emerges in the most unlikely of places.

GS Collins St Patrick’s Day 17 March 2020

Because music and art become so woven into my thinking and practice, you may be encouraged to know that this homily has it’s own (long) accompanying playlist on spotify.
I warn you now, it’s not fun party anthems; it’s pretty sparse, some might say bleak!.. but it offers a sense of solidarity, and a shape to that ache i’ve described. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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