March 28, 2020 – The Lamb of God

"I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter." (Jer 11:19) One who does not attempt to escape his fate. Jeremiah and Isaiah, too, use the image of a lamb led to slaughter. Christ Jesus is this lamb of God, who does not fulfill his will by force, but is handed out without resisting, and thus the salvation of man is accomplished: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (Joh 1:29)

Death is a consequence of sin; God had provided otherwise for man. Giving himself unto death, Jesus takes this consequence upon himself, "bore the sins of man." Not as though God requires punishment and sacrifice in order to satisfy his anger. Indeed, God gives himself, enters into even this aspect of human history, when Jesus suffers and dies for us, so that suffering and death have gone from being a punishment and consequence of sin, to being a place in which love is manifested. In the sacrifice of Christ, it is not the degree of suffering that matters, but the love that is the root of merit.

Even in human life there are situations that can only be made whole by a voluntary sacrifice. Sick persons in need of help (many doctors and nurses are sacrificing themselves now to treat the sick), crises in relationships… often enough only love that is willing to sacrifice can provide a remedy. Christ's death is the sacrifice in which God's love and thus his glory is manifested in this way.

This love made manifest on the cross, in the suffering and death of Christ, is present in the Eucharist. "This is my body, which will be given for you." It is Christ himself who renders praise to the Father and gives himself to us under the appearance of bread. The Eucharist is not only a banquet; it is the presence of Christ's sacrifice. Even if we cannot at this time celebrate this banquet together, the Lord remains present among us in this sacrament, to comfort us in fears and suffering, to strength us, to turn us with thanksgiving and trust to our God and Father.

March 26, 2020 – Soldiering On or Enjoying

Today is the 11th day of the Stay-at-Home orders in Austria, though it feels like quite a bit longer. The days are so unusual, they feel longer. A couple days ago the government hinted again that it will be quite some time before we can return to "normal life" again, and the return can only be step by step. For those suffering in the current conditions and merely hoping that the whole thing will be over as soon as possible, that is likely unpleasant news.

We can, however, to a significant extent ourselves determine the effect these things have on us. Our we experience the (necessary) new circumstances depends not only on the external situation and our job, but also on our attitude.

I myself am neither out of a job nor required to work more intensely than before, as the police, medical personell and a number of other professionals have to. Pastoral care and parish life continues, though contact takes place mostly by telephone, email and the like. In addition, I am an introvert and enjoy peace and quiet. Still, I miss more personal contact with people, and I can sympathize with those who need such contact much more, or who are out of a job or concerned about it, or who struggle with homeschooling for the first time, and who find the current situation rather burdensome.

One thing that helps me is to be attentive to see the opportunities to be found in the present circumstances, as well as the many things for which to be grateful. E.g., to have somewhat more time to listen to music or to make music, or to clean up, organize or fix various things in my apartment, or to pray, especially in the evenings, when there are usually so many meetings, catecheses, etc. In larger society, it is a blessing to see the solidarity and mutual help given at this time.

That doesn't mean we should pretend everything is rosy; it is not. There is not a little human suffering that we should attend to, quite a bit of sacrifice and deprivation is needed. We can, however, give this assistance and make these sacrifices better from a position of strength, of hope, of joy in the graces God is working this time. In this sense, I hope and pray that all of us can experience this strange and unusual time as a time of blessings.