Last weekend record crowds turned out to watch the London Marathon, not frightened away but spurred on by the attack on the Boston Marathon just a few days earlier. For the Bank Holiday at the end of May we are planning a different kind of marathon: 40 hours of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. There will be 15 hours from the 6.00pm Mass on Saturday 25th until the 10.00am Mass on Sunday, then 25 hours from the 6.00pm Mass on Sunday 27th until the closing Mass at 8.00pm on Monday 28th. Actually it isn’t a marathon, but a relay with teams of people volunteering for each period. Some hours will be led by groups from within our parish and from neighbouring parishes, with readings, music and prayers; others will be mostly quiet, with just a prayer at the start of the hour. It is often said that these days people won’t come out, especially at night, but many parishes have found that, for a special occasion, there are enough people who are willing and able to give up part of a night’s sleep to praise God for his goodness to us and to pray for their own needs, and for the needs of our local community and the world.
This devotion has a long history and recent Church teaching has made clearer its link with the celebration of the Eucharist. Jesus is present in many ways to his Church: in his word, in his Church’s prayer, in the poor, the sick and the imprisoned, in the sacraments, in the sacrifice of the Mass and in the person of the minister. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament allows us to deepen our appreciation of the presence of Jesus, extending our devotion by spending time simply being with the Lord, reflecting on his word and sharing his concern for all those who are in need.
During the next few weeks you will be invited to participate in this event by volunteering to be part of one of the teams, by signing up for a particular period of time, or by donating to dedicate a candle to a loved one or a particular intention. Our church has been physically transformed: this weekend could be a big step in spiritually transforming and renewing us as a community. As Jesus says in this Sunday’s gospel, ‘I am making all things new’.