May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you! One of the ways in which the peace of Jesus Christ can be with us in times like this, times of anxiety, is by calling to mind favourite passages from the Bible which have inspired and consoled us in past years. This might be one such passage, one in which Jesus is asked a question.
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
Love of God and love of neighbour, wouldn’t you agree?, is what following Jesus, being his disciple, is all about. But what kind of love is being asked of us in the situation in which now find ourselves? Some of us, it is true, are being asked to be heroic. Just think of all those brave men and women in the health services on whom we all depend. Most of us, however, are asked to be prudent. By being prudent we will be loving our neighbour as ourselves and we’ll be loving God as well.
Prudence may not be the most glamorous of virtues - if we try to imagine what it looks like, it doesn't conjure up heroic visions, as the virtue of fortitude might, nor the romanticism that we might associate with courage or hope. But prudence is a virtue: it’s a quiet, gentle way of loving, with a big impact.
Right now we are all being asked to be prudent by taking good care of ourselves, by washing hands often and thoroughly, by self-distancing and self-isolating, By doing all this we certainly help ourselves but we also prevent the spread of the illness to others. Yes, this is how right now we can love our neighbours as ourselves and how we love God too. For a moment, you might remember the presence of the Lord Jesus who loves you very much … thank him for his love, thank him being here … a quiet, gentle but sustaining presence … talk to him about how you feel … ask yourself for a few moments whether you are doing all you can to take good care of yourself at this time …
Some of us may be in a position to help those who are more vulnerable, without putting ourselves or anyone else at risk, you might like to ask God now for the generosity to do this... ask God to show you who and how you might be able to help…
Finally, we can say a pray of thanks for those who are generously caring for those who are sick and suffering at this time … doctors, nurses, care workers and family members …. And let’s ask for peace, for them and ourselves, as we listen to these familiar words of St Paul, all about a quiet, gentle way of loving, with a big impact:
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever will be, world without end. Amen.