[All public liturgies in the State of Ohio are currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. This will be one part homily and one part pastoral message to my parishioners.]
I asked Dc. Dave to give us his reflections this week:
I find myself in my email, text, face time, and zoom conversations with folks ending with the words “stay safe”. I often add that I have the people I talk to in my prayers. In this time of the Corona Virus Pandemic, our priorities have changed. We are in many ways isolated. In this time of isolation and anxiety about our health and the health of everyone around us, we are unable to reach out to Jesus and invite Jesus into our lives in the usual ways. Who would have imagined that we could not attend mass or pray in front of the altar or adore our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration. We are called to figure out a way for us to keep our relationship with Jesus strong, to do things to reduce our sense of isolation, and to reach out to others in different ways.
The first reading today from the Prophet Ezekiel is a message to Ezekiel’s people from God assuring them he would deliver them and raise them up out of their misery. This was a people who had seen their temple destroyed and who had only seen death and exile for some time. Their faith was being tested. Yet God, speaking through Ezekiel, “I will put my spirit within you that you may live and I will settle you upon your land; and thus you will know that I am the Lord. I have promised and I will do it, says the Lord.”
Paul speaks to a people who were being taken over by the concerns of this world; a people who were beginning to think only of themselves. Paul exhorts them to be open to the Spirit of Christ. “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through the spirit dwelling in you.
In the Gospel today, Jesus clearly says: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” The significance of today’s Gospel is not so much about raising Lazarus from the dead, but having faith in Jesus even when a pandemic and living isolated is a new reality in our lives.
I know that all of us are finding creative ways to stay in touch with each other. I love the chalk messages to Fr. Adam in the rectory parking lot. I am grateful for those who are offering to help those parishioners who can’t get out of the house. I see the dollars that you offer to make sure that those who need help get it. I know that many of you are praying for our community and for a cure for the virus. Your actions attest to your faith in Jesus Christ and help to strengthen our faith as we all move forward.
I also know that you are working to keep Jesus alive in your lives with prayer and scripture and sharing faith with others in different, but important ways. Don’t forget Formed and EWTN and other media outlets.
The Collect for today’s liturgy simply says: “By your help, we beseech you, Lord our God, may we walk eagerly in that same charity with which, out of love for the world, your Son handed himself over to death.” As I close, I would only say “stay safe” and you are in my prayers and the prayers of all of us on the staff of Saint Mark.
And now some parish business…
We will be streaming the Holy Week liturgies, starting with Palm Sunday Mass. Early in the week we learned that the Vatican expects the parish priests to celebrate the Holy Week liturgies in the churches wherever possible, even if it’s just the priest alone. I can’t imagine praying the liturgy without all of you, so I resolved to see if I could figure out how to stream with a decent quality. Several days and may temptations of profanity later, the technical side is all worked out for us to stream through Facebook Live. I’ll be sending another email announcement to the parish in general with all the details early this week.
Has Ohio’s Stay-at-Home order changed anything for the parish? While churches are exempt from the order, the Diocese is voluntarily following it to the best of our ability. All our staff members are working from home and are still accessible to you by email. They should also be calling in to check their office voicemail twice a day. But the Parish Office is closed to anyone coming in person.
What is the plan for April/May events like First Communion or the 75 Anniversary Mass? Officially we are waiting for the state or the Diocese to extend the current restrictions (personally I’m expecting things to be extended, just don’t know for how long). Once we get closer to scheduled events and know what the situation is, we will certainly reschedule them. Just be glad you aren’t the one couple the parish has with a May wedding date… right now they have about three different backup plans and can only wait and see!
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.