Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I pray this finds you and your loved ones healthy in mind, body and spirit. I know that being bombarded with news about the COVID-19 pandemic can be wearying. While it is important to stay on top of the news about it, as it seems to change every hour, it can be overwhelming. But let us not forget that it is Jesus Christ, and not this virus, that is Lord, and it is Him, above all, on whom we must keep ourselves focused.
So many of you have reached out to me and I thank you for that. I am doing well. It is hard to believe that we are about to go into our second weekend without any public Masses. Ironically, even with Masses being suspended, I have been finding myself trying to find a new “normal” in how ministry is done, and that has kept me plenty busy.
As Sunday approaches, however, I just wanted to share with you a few thoughts. But first, I think I have managed to figure out how to stream live on our Facebook account which can be found by clicking here. And so on Sunday, at 9:30 AM I will attempt to live stream Mass from the rectory chapel for any who wish to watch. Spoiler alert…some thoughts that follow might find their way into the homily. If I mess this up (and I just might), and it doesn’t work, don’t forget that you can watch the Sunday Mass on Catholic TV online at www.catholictv.org, or on Comcast at 268 or Verizon at 296, or anytime on demand at www.watchthemass.com.
In this Sunday’s Gospel passage (readings can be found by clicking here), the disciples of Jesus ask him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parent, that he was born blind?” In essence, their words might be boiled down to the question, “Why?” It is a question that is often asked when we undergo hardships, e.g, the sudden and tragic death of a loved one, or when we are faced with a serious or terminal illness, or any various number of situations. It is a question many might be asking as this coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold.
The presumption of the disciples in the Gospel passage is
that the fact that this man had been born blind was some sort of divine
punishment for personal sin. In the
Gospels, Jesus speaks many times about the “harvest” and the judgment of God
which is reserved for the end of time.
We must be careful not to think that this virus is a direct punishment
from God. Remember that we began this
season of Lent with the story of Adam and Eve being “evicted” from the Garden
of Eden because of their sin. It is that
sin, Original Sin, which has caused us to be born into a fallen state and to
live in a fallen world where suffering is a reality. While God does permit suffering, Jesus, in
healing the man born blind, reveals to us the Father’s love and consolation,
and his desire to bring healing into our lives – most especially spiritual
healing. Be sure to notice that the man
in the Gospel passage is given not just physical sight, but the sight of faith. In his encounter with Jesus, he recognized
(“saw”) God breaking into his situation in a powerful way. Just so, Jesus calls us to recognize the ways
in which he is present to us in the midst of our trials so that, like the man
born blind, we might give him praise for the blessings he sends to us.
This weekend we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent. This Sunday actually marks the half-way point of our Lenten journey. From this point we are closer to Easter than we are to Ash Wednesday! And so the Church calls this Sunday Laetare Sunday. The word laetare come from the introit or entrance antiphon for this Mass and is Latin for “Rejoice!” It is an imperative, not a suggestion. We might ask, “What is there to rejoice in when more people are being diagnosed with COVID-19, when we have tighter restrictions on going places and gathering with others, when we cannot get to church to celebrate holy Mass together?” Though we may be half-way through Lent, we don’t know how long we will be dealing with this pandemic, which can be disheartening. But we need to remember that joy is not simply an emotion. Happiness is, and happiness comes and goes depending on what is going on in our lives. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and it abides in the soul of the person who exercises the virtue of faith. Let us remember, then, that the Christian finds joy not in the ABSENCE of disease, trial or suffering. Rather, the Christian finds joy in being aware of the presence of Christ in the midst of our disease, trial and suffering.
As we navigate the days ahead, there are some things I would invite you to consider:
Confession – If there is anyone who desires to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, please let me know and we can work that out. You can find a guide to preparing for Confession by clicking here.
Holy Water – While we have had to dry up the holy water fonts at the doors of the church, there is a metal container filled with this water at the back of the church. You might consider bringing a small container from home to fill with the water. The water serves as a reminder of our Baptism and has also been used to ward off evil and temptation. Should our inability to gather as a community for public Mass continue on to Easter, it would be good to have some at home with you as that is the time we traditionally renew our baptismal promises and are sprinkled with the Easter water.
Elders & Those Most at Risk – Once again, please remember to check in on the elders of our community and those who might have underlying conditions that make them most at risk for this coronavirus. If you know of someone who needs something, or you, yourself, are in need, please call the parish office.
Offertory – Finally, as you may be aware, with no public Masses being celebrated, there is no weekly collection coming in. The bills, however, still seem to find their way to us. I thank those of you who have been mailing in your envelopes and checks. Perhaps some of you would consider either mailing in your donation or donating it online. You can do that by going to the parish website and clicking the “Donate!” icon or simply clicking here. I know with the way the stock market is going, and with the pandemic, that these are uncertain times, but every little bit will help. Thank you.
Let us all keep each other in prayer in the days ahead. Rejoice!