FROM THE PASTOR’S CORNER:
A word from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI ~ “The Gospel purifies and renews: it bears fruit wherever the community of believers hears and welcomes the grace of God in truth and lives in charity. This is my faith; this is my joy.”
We have been on an unbelievable roller coaster for the past few weeks. We began this period following a “no Mass” weekend in our diocese. Having the Bishop cancel weekend Mass at each of our parishes in the Diocese was something none of us expected. One of the most heartbreaking sights was seeing a totally empty parish parking lot last Saturday at 5:00pm. The Catechism affirms that “the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist is at the heart of the Church’s life.” It was as if our life blood was cut off in an already difficult time. And then who could have imagined that our schools would be shut down for three weeks (now four or more). And Religious Education and Youth Ministry activities suspended as well? Nothing before has been able to shut down our churches like this. And just as we were sharpening our pencils for our March Madness brackets … all cancelled, along with all sporting events including the NBA, the NHL, Spring Training and various Opening Days last week. And that was our situation on the first Monday! Things got worse as the week went on. It has been almost two weeks now that all restaurants and bars have been closed. Who knows when it will be safe for them to open again? All parish schedules and activities have ground to a halt. Our hope was that these added precautions would “flatten the curve,” stem the spread of the Coronavirus and lead to its demise.
Throughout that first week we had meeting after meeting to plan our strategies. And then something else happened and we had to start all over. Each news conference at the national and state level called for adjustments. Emails from our Bishop had the same effect. I hope that would not be the case this week, but there are no guarantees. We already know that Holy Week and Easter services are cancelled with the hopes of resuming parish services sometime during Easter week. As I write this early in the week, our plan is to do a “live stream” of Sunday’s 10:00am Mass from the church. Hopefully that will happen this weekend. We have been able to post connections to “live streams” at other parishes, but there is no place like home.
Throughout all of this, communication has been and continues to be a priority. I plan on writing a “Mid-Week Pastor’s Corner” to be released on Wednesday through all of our electronic venues – Flocknote, Facebook, the parish website and others. We look for ways to offer possibilities to stay connected during a “stay-at-home-order,” suggestions for our prayer, ways to cope with the fears and stresses we all face and ways to emphasize the positive. Our faith assures us that God is with us and that we will come out on the other end.
For the present, we are celebrating the Fifth Sunday of Lent this weekend, and are entering into the third and final part of the season. I’d like to spend some time looking back on where we have been in this season and then look forward.
We began this holy season on Ash Wednesday by hearing the call to fully enter into this season with everything that we’ve got and to embrace the traditional penances of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. This invitation was repeated throughout the first two weeks of Lent. Then, as we realized that we could not do all this on our own, we were reassured that the Lord would give us all that we need to respond to his call.
During the Third and Fourth weeks of Lent our daily Scripture readings shifted our focus to the sacraments, the ways in which God would redeem us. Multiple images of water, light and life in the daily Scripture readings reminded us of the life God gave us in the Sacrament of Baptism and helped to prepare us for the Easter Vigil Baptisms of the Elect and our own renewal of our Baptism commitment.
Now, in these final weeks of Lent, our attention shifts to the Cross. Many might be surprised to hear that the Cross has not been a focal point in Lent until this weekend. Up to this point, the Lenten focus has been upon our call to change. Beginning tomorrow, our Scripture readings and Mass prayers remind us of the great price by which we were redeemed. God delivered his own Son, the innocent Lamb of God, into our hands as the sacrifice offered for our redemption. God faithfully loved us when we were at our worst. This week’s Scripture readings will set the stage for our reading of the Passion according to Matthew next Sunday on Palm/Passion Sunday. We can find those daily Scripture readings on-line at www.usccb.org/bible/readings. We now turn our full attention toward the Cross. These final days of Lent lead us into our Holy Week prayer – the three-day commemoration of the dying and rising of the Lord. These are the holiest days of the church year. No matter what our present situation looks like, let us do all that we can to live these holy days well. They can be a tremendous source of hope in a difficult time.
I’ve shared this “Prayer for a Pandemic” before – it was sent to me by one of our parishioners. It is definitely worth sharing again:
Prayer for a Pandemic
May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
remember those who must choose between
preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for
our children when their schools close
remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
remember those who have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money
in the tumult of the economic market
remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
let us chose love.
During this time when we cannot physically
wrap our arms around each other,
yet find ways to be the loving embrace
of God to our neighbors. Amen.
Let us continue to pray for each other. May God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy