We are not currently able to gather together to celebrate Mass because of the Coronavirus. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith (Lumen Gentium, 11). Thus, this time without public celebration of the Eucharist might seem a threat to our church. Is this the devil at work? What does this mean for our Church?
We have divine assurance that the devil will not prevail. That divine assurance comes from Jesus’ own words to Peter in Matthew 16:18, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
Paul, in his letter to the Romans reminds the people that God is on our side, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b, for entire passage see Romans 8:28-39).
Yes, it is true we face a challenge to stay connected as a church that is the community of believers. We can still come together in prayer, albeit from our own homes. Last Friday, March 20th, Pope Francis called all to pray the Rosary together at 4 pm EDT. As we celebrate the celebrate the Annunciation this Wednesday, March 25th, Pope Francis invites all to pray the Lord’s Prayer at noon. Also on Wednesday, Bishop Matano has invited all in our diocese to pray a Rosary lead by him streamed on YouTube at noon.
We can also pray on our own but sharing common intentions. This is why I have been putting a prayer/intention on St. Luke’s Facebook page each morning. Certainly, we are sharing a common prayer intention in praying for an end to the Coronavirus.
We should also remember that while public Masses are not being said, Masses are being said privately. The Sacrifice of the Mass, which makes present today the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, does not stop. As I say Mass, I offer for each and every one of you. I cannot say it enough that you are all very much on my mind as I celebrate Mass.
Yes, the Coronavirus crisis poses a threat to how we currently live as a community of believers. We are used to coming together for Mass weekly (daily for some). Mass is often the only time people see each other. Yet, that does not mean our connection to one another is broken right now. As you pray, take time to remember the people in our community. Even if you don’t know their names, you have seen them at church. Pray for them. If you don’t know their names, God does. God knows each and everyone of us by name. God will direct the prayer to the right person.
For those you know by name and are close to, make effort to stay connected. You may begin this by praying for them. You could also reach out to them. Good social distancing may prevent us from seeing them in person but it doesn’t prevent us from reaching out to them by phone or email.
In reaching out in prayer and to communicate with one another, we take the threat of the Coronavirus breaking our community apart and turn it into a new opportunity, a new way of being the community of believers.
By praying more often, we also take this time where we are told to stay home and turn it into an opportunity to spend more time with God. God embraces the opportunity to converse with you in prayer.
If you find yourself with a lot of free time, in addition to prayer, I encourage you to use this time to learn more about God as a means to deepen your relationship with him. You can do this by reading scripture and other spiritual reading. You can watch Catholic programming on TV or listen on radio (where available).
For those who are new to this blog, I take a moment here to point you to my website beyond this blog, www.renewaloffaith.org. The articles there are all written by me to help people learn and understand more about our faith. In addition to written articles, you will also find presentations recorded on video I have done. The menu bar is sorted by topic if you have something particular you would like to learn about. If you would like to know what the newest material is, check out the “What’s New” page.
Returning to the theme of staying connected, for those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you have probably noticed I am posting much more often since the Coronavirus crisis began in the United States. This is my way of staying connected with our parishioners but also everyone who reads my blog. (I encourage you to share what you read here with others.)
It is important for us to put effort into maintaining our relationships with fellow believers. I know some, myself included, are concerned that when we are able to once again gather to celebrate Mass publicly, not everyone will come back. This is why our efforts toward maintaining community are so important. In fact, it is my prayer that our efforts to sustain our community during the Coronavirus crisis will actually lead us to find new ways to reach out to those who stopped coming to church long before the Coronavirus as well as those who have never come to church.
I’ll end this blog with a request. As I pray for you, and you pray for each other, please remember your parish and the whole church in your prayer. Pray that we find ways to maintain and even strengthen our communities. Pray that we fulfill our mission to bring Jesus to the world. I also encourage you to continue financial support of your parishes in whatever way you can (many parishes offer online giving). Like you, during the Coronavirus crisis, parishes have bills that need to be paid. I don’t like to talk about money. The money is never the focus. Yet, we rely on your support. The most important support is your prayers.
Very well written Fr. Jeff and glad you are there for our parish and our parishioners.