Wash your hands and say your prayers

The soap dispenser next to my bathroom sink has the following words printed on it: “Wash your hands and say your prayers because Jesus and germs are everywhere!” As someone who loves Jesus and has also cultivated a fears germs ever since she learned about them in first grade, I consider this item an essential part of my home decor. The dispenser has been getting a lot of use lately (even more so than usual), given the circumstances. I connected to those words in a new way this morning, as I went to wash my hands. Usually, they’ll make me smile or chuckle on the inside, but today they opened my mind to the very reality that Jesus is everywhere.

Around the world, in our own country, and even in our own communities, people are suffering from a virus that has never been seen before. In order to prevent its spread, things are being closed and cancelled left and right. So much has changed within a week, and even within a few days. All public Masses have been suspended through the end of the month. Schools closing, restaurants closing, workplaces shifting to work from home…all of these things have changed our lives and our world so suddenly. We’ve done our best to find solutions, to make do with what we have to work with. But no Mass? This one seems to hit more deeply (it has for me, at least). Not being able to worship God in community or to receive Jesus in the Eucharist leaves us feeling disoriented. We were created for communion with God. Not being able to physically attend and participate in Mass, where this happens in the most beautiful and profound way, seems contrary to what we humans were made for.

Right before I washed my hands this morning, I watched a live-streamed daily Mass from my parish’s chapel. The first reading is especially timely for our current state of affairs. Moses says, in imaging what the other nations will say about Israel, “For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him?” (Deuteronomy 4:7). God is closer to us than we can imagine. He doesn’t come in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire; He in the “light silent sound” (1 Kings 19: 11-12). As the priest at my parish said in his homily this morning, “even though right now we’re in a time when being physically present at Mass is not possible…when we have to keep a distance from the greatest of all sacraments (the Eucharist), that doesn’t change the fact that God desires to draw close to you and to me. Our God desires to be near us” (thank you, Father Sam!). God comes to us and makes Himself present in the sacraments, but He does so in other ways, too. He is close to us no matter what. He desires to be close to His people, to each of us individually. He desires to come into our heart and guide us, encourage us, and show us His love. In a time where so much is uncertain, this gives us great confidence.

Our hunger for the Eucharist in this time when we cannot receive it is real, and it is out of love and longing for God Who gives Himself freely to us, in a way that is tangible to us. In our hunger, we not only are in solidarity with those Catholics around the world, for whom going to Mass is dangerous and potentially life-threatening, but it also allows us an opportunity to feed others with what we do have. We know that God is with us. Even though everything else is changing, that isn’t. We have this confidence, this faith, this relationship. Let’s feed other people with it. Let’s look around us to find those in our lives who are spiritually starving. We can bring Christ to them, in our words and actions (even if it’s through FaceTime). Everything else may be cancelled, but we can still do that.

By: Michelle Onofrio