Dear Friends in Christ,
In some ways around here, it seems like Easter was a turning point as we deal with this pandemic. Here at the parish, we were building up to and trying to cope just to get through Easter. The Feast of Easter is central to our liturgical and faith lives. In turn, Lent, Holy Week and Easter have also impacted how we have adjusted to the shutdown caused by the Coronavirus. Above all else, please know that you continue to be and are very much in my thoughts and prayers. In spite of the many and great challenges of the current situation, the work of the parish has continued: God is still being praised, people are still prayed for, Mass is prayed, the sacraments are being offered and administered albeit in very limited manner, people are being served, the gospel continues to be preached, the parish continues to form people in the truth of the Catholic faith through our Youth and Adult Formation programs, the faithful departed are still buried with the rites of the church, the spiritual and corporal works of charity are performed and the administration of the parish is still taking place. Now all of these activities are taking place in a very reduced manner and we are not capable or permitted to do everything that we need to do or want to do. All of the p arishioners of St. John Vianney have been impacted by the Coronavirus in many ways, yet some more than others. I ask for your prayers for those of our families who have members that have been infected by this virus. We prayfor them in a special way. Most of our parishioners who have been infected, though not all, have been health care professionals. At the same time, we continue to pray for all of our parishioners who are dealing with illness no matter the cause.
This past week, I asked our staff members, who are working from home, to reflect on what they have learned so far from this situation. Though we are still very much in the middle of this, I think it is important for us to take into account and not lose sight of what has happened so far and what is unfolding before us. For me and I dare say for all of us as Catholics, the most important thing is that we recognize God’s love for us is still present. With all of the pain and suffering, the unknown and the fear that is caused, the disruption to our lives and our society, God’s love for us remains the most significant force in the entire world. While Easter Masses were cancelled, the truth of Easter could not be cancelled or erased. The love of God in Jesus Christ is greater than any power on earth! No evil, no situation, no virus, not even death itself can conquer God’s love and mercy for us. Even though we were kept apart from praying together this Easter, God’s love for us and our love for Him and for each other prevails! We are a people of faith and our faith in God and in our Catholic Church remains firm and strong!
Where do we go from here? This situation is not over and the impact of the COVID -19 Pandemic of 2020 is going to last for a while. We will be dealing with the emotional, financial and societal impact for some time even after the immediate threat of the health crisis passes away. There will also be a spiritual impact that we need to be aware of. As with every problem, the first and most important thing is to be aware and acknowledge that we have a problem – fear, debt, isolation, doubt or whatever. We have to acknowledge and accept that our problems are ours and that they are real. Denial is not a solution or a prescription for getting better or overcoming our problems. Identifying and acceptance are the first steps in overcoming our problems. The next step is to put things in perspective. Losing our job, seeing our finances crumble, being afraid to go outside, getting depressed or angry are all real. While none of us have ever had to deal with a worldwide pandemic before, we have all had problems before and had to deal with them. This time is no different. We have real problems and we will deal with them and overcome them in time and with God’s help. Step by step, all of us will overcome this situation. We will do so by our own hard work, the assistance of one another and with God’s infinite grace. It was just a few years ago that our community faced the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and the floods when so many of us lost every worldly possession. This is not the first downturn of the oil industry where there have been jobs lost. All of us have encountered illness and the death of a loved one. Even the greatest of the saints struggled in their prayer. Whatever the problem, no matter how great, there is no problem that God cannot conquer.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? It is Christ Jesus who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 8:32-39.
This is the message of Easter. This is our Catholic Faith!
In pace Christi,