By Christopher Gilroy – YMI Coordinator
When I asked myself, “where does Jesus want to meet us today during the Covid-19 epidemic?” I think about the woman at the well. The woman was in her place of solitude and retreat. She was alone and in a place socially distant in the hottest part of the day to avoid others. We notice as we read through the scriptural telling that Jesus was already sitting beside the well before the woman arrived. It was the woman who had to approach Jesus, which reminds us of the non-imposing love of God. I imagine she would have seen him from a distance and felt uneasy, her plans of social distancing by using the heat of the day had fallen through, but her thirst still needed to be quenched. Anxious the woman approaches Jesus, she can see he is a Jew, and she assumes she will be shunned. But what we see is a response of love by Jesus. He enters into her situation and offers the living water that will leave her never to thirst again.
Where are God’s people today? They are socially distant and in their isolation within their homes. They, too, may feel anxious and uneasy. As Christians, we ought to be waiting for them also in a sense, as Jesus was sitting by the well. We have to be ready to respond and offer them Jesus and His life-giving water.
In today’s day and age, it’s safe to assume our young people are spending significant portions of their time in the silence of their room behind a closed door, on their devices. They continue to consume without satisfaction, but we need to step in and quench their thirst with an offer of God’s love. We ought to offer a spiritual drink and a genuine invitation to have a relationship with Jesus and walk with them online using our time and beautiful, excellent, and faithful media resources.
I’ve experienced this in my Youth Minister role. The Canberra/Goulburn Archdiocese produced a fantastic, professionally made Easter reflection resource called Encounter. A colleague and I reached out to three Year ten students and invited them to pray this resource with us daily online for the duration of Holy Week. To my joy, the conversations over the laptop screen flourished, I asked the students to light their candles and set up their prayer space before we would pray, discuss, journal, and meditate. This would often last up to an hour and a half. The professionally produced Encounter resource begins with a great introductory video, a scripture focus, and a reflection. I found that my students more than ever were more receptive to entering into sincere prayer, and having an excellent resource at hand was perfect.
Visiting them in an online chat room in their isolation was stirring within them, a ‘woman at the well’ experience. Jesus was pouring out the Father’s grace in their hearts. Together we would begin to journal, which was when the sincere prayer and reflecting would happen. I would simply ask the students to mute their microphones while I played worship reflection music in the background. Sometimes this lasted up to 20 minutes. The sharing that followed had such profound substance and was entirely centred on Christ in their hearts. On a few occasions, I was moved to tears by their sharing.
Practically after our initial Monday reflection session, we would discuss a mutual time for the next day and meet again online. Every student out of their desire tuned in daily for the entire week. They started posting photos of their prayer spaces on their social media platforms. One student’s photo reached 1000 of her peers, and her friends began requesting to join the prayer group. This action of them sharing gave them courage and affirmation in their faith. They were starting to come to know the heart of Jesus, and they couldn’t help but want to make Jesus known.
We decided to schedule an online youth group for Holy Saturday and invite all the young people in the parish to attend. Two of those students from that prayer group shared their testimonies for the first time speaking passionately and maturely about their relationship with Jesus to their peers.
By the end of the week, each student committed 6 hours of their time to prayer! We need to respond like Jesus in this time of isolation and introduce our young people to that life-giving water that will satisfy the real thirst and desire deeply planted in their hearts by a loving God.