FROM THE PASTOR’S CORNER:
A word from Pope Francis ~ “The confessional is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better.”
We continue to struggle with the presence of the Coronavirus in our neighborhoods, our state, our country and our world. We are constantly reminded that the remedy of this virus is isolation. The illness (or threat of illness) separates us from each other and maintaining the separation is the only way to stop the spread. Our hope was that these added precautions would “flatten the curve,” stem the spread of the Coronavirus and lead to its demise.
I hope that you were able to participate in one of the two Masses we live streamed last Sunday. I was able to celebrate the 10:00am Mass and Father Juan José followed with the 11:30am Mass in Spanish. After celebrating the 10:00am Mass, I heard from so many people that one of the aspects of our faith that they miss the most is the Eucharist. As the Catechism affirms, “the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s Day and his Eucharist is at the heart of the Church’s life.” Through the Eucharist we are joined with the living Lord Jesus in a bond closer than anything else we can experience. Through the Eucharist we are fed and strengthened for what awaits us in the week ahead. My grandmother used to say that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” For many of us, the absence of the Eucharist over these past few weeks has truly made us much more aware of the gift the Lord has given us. What a great day that will be when we can gather together again and take our places at the table of the Lord.
It was a mixed blessing for me to be able celebrate last Sunday’s live streamed Mass in our church. It was a blessing to be back in the church after our daily individual Masses in the chapel but it was very strange to have empty pews in front of me. We had only four people present – a sound tech, Tom Norton – lector and camera man, Deacon Dan and myself. Even though I knew that many of you were present through electronic means, your physical presence was missed. We received some directives from our Bishop for our celebrations of Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter. We’re working out the details so that we can provided live streams of those celebrations. We are checking on the copy right status of our music and hope to have hymns added to our Masses.
It is hard to believe that we are already celebrating Holy Week. Holy Week is a time of once-a-year prayer services and rituals that celebrate the deepest mysteries of our faith. Holy Week is a time to turn inward, to prayerfully recount the passion and death of Christ, and to look forward to the glory of Easter when we, like Jesus, are transformed into a new creation.
As we enter into this week with our observance of Palm/Passion Sunday, our Bishop has directed that we have a simple beginning of Mass that includes the blessing of palms. These palms will be distributed on a later Sunday when we can all gather together again. Our Scripture readings will include the reading of the Passion according to Matthew. The shadow of the cross is cast over our prayers and liturgies for the rest of the week.
Willing or not, each of us will have to share in the Lord’s Cross at the moment of our death. Whenever that comes, we believe that God will transform our death into life, just as God did for his Son. But there are also those moments throughout our lives when we participate in the transforming power of the Cross long before our individual deaths. Each one of us experiences “mini-deaths” from time to time as we journey through life. With all that we have faced these past few weeks, we may be more conscious of that truth this year than in previous years. Each “mini-death” experience holds the possibility of being transformed into new life by God. Perhaps a few examples might help….
Whenever something we hoped for and longed for didn’t turn out as we desired, a part of us died. We experienced a “mini-death.” When we broke up with our high school sweet heart, or someone we were sure was “the one,” a part of us died. The same is true when our “secure” job evaporated in the face of a pandemic, downsizing, bankruptcy, scandal or an unexpected transfer, or when the 401(k) intended for our retirement vanished by a half or the security of our home was placed in jeopardy. We experience a “mini-death” when someone we trusted let us down or betrayed a confidence. A broken dream or promise, the loss of separation or grief, an untimely injury or sickness, missed opportunities or lost youth, a rejection or failed relationship, or our children take a wrong turn in life – these and many more are “mini-deaths” in our lives. We all experience death to one degree or another throughout our lives, as also did God’s own Son.
Whatever form death takes in our lives, the mystery of the Cross gives us hope. As God transformed Jesus’ death into life, so too will God transform our many experiences of death into life as well.
Our belief in the transforming power of the Lord’s Cross can give us a very practical way to live this Holy Week of 2020. In whatever ways we may be able to experience our prayer this week, we can gather all of the experiences of death in our lives and bring them to the Cross. Each one of them – from our minor disappointments to the present day fears we face to the deaths of those we deeply love – can be fixed to the Cross. And as the Lord Jesus squarely faced death so as to be raised to new life, so too can God raise all of our experiences of death to new life. The mystery of the Cross was not meant for Jesus alone – it is hope for all of us.
As we conclude our observance of Lent this Thursday and enter into the Easter Triduum, let us continue to pray for and support each other. Know that you have a place in our prayer each day. May God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy
Once again this week, I’d like to share this “Prayer for a Pandemic” that was sent to me by one of our parishioners.
Prayer for a Pandemic
May we who are merely inconvenienced
remember those whose lives are at stake.
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 no risk factors
remember those most vulnerable.
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.