Dear Ones in Christ,
I so keenly remember celebrating sacred mysteries with all of you at just this time last year. It was my first time to celebrate the Triduum in this parish, and I remember the intensity with which we gathered and celebrated. I remember washing feet. I remember the silence. I remember transferring the Blessed Sacrament from the Church over to Room 5 in the Education Building which had been transformed into a beautiful chapel of repose. And again, the sacred silence there. I remember these things, but mostly I remember getting to be with all of you. We are taught that one of the ways in which Christ is truly present to us at Mass is in the gathered community. In Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy we read, “Lastly, he (Christ) is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised “where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18:20). Yes, I am doing a lot of remembering these days, and my heart is made thankful because I remember all of you.
As with so many of you, I feel both the strangeness and the stress of our days of separation. I wrote previously that I miss all of you so very much. In spite of the strangeness and the stress, I continue to live each day in great hope, and I want to encourage all of you in that same effort. My heart has been so deeply fed by the incredible number of encouraging and uplifting emails I have received from so many of you. Your appreciation for these little personal letters makes my heart smile each time I read one. And believe me, I read them over and over! So, in the midst of these times I may feel a bit disconnected, but I certainly have no reason to be discouraged because the Holy Spirit is working through each of you to keep me in good spirits. Thank you so much for the many ways you have expressed your appreciation for me and for my priesthood. Thank you for keeping me in your prayers just as I keep you in mine. I can certainly enter into the sentiment which the Apostle Paul expressed in the very beginning of his letter to the Philippians, “I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now.” [Phil. 1:3-5]. I give thanks to God for you!
A lady spoke with me by phone the other day and expressed her feelings of being all but overwhelmed by all that we are experiencing these days. She has had so many difficult experiences throughout this year, and she just needed to get them off her heart. As she spoke a beautiful verse from Psalms came into my thoughts. Its beauty comes out more in the King James Version:
“Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
While this pandemic is difficult to endure it cannot overwhelm our Heavenly Father. In days like these our hearts can be led to that Rock that is higher, greater than any negativity or frustration we may be experiencing. The lady with whom I was speaking asked, “Fr. Jay, do you really actually believe that all of this is going to come to an end?” My response, “Absolutely!” I could give her that answer, again, because I am not overwhelmed. I am standing on the Rock that is higher than I. So, let me encourage all of you to remember that we have no reason at all to be downhearted in these days. God is as close to each one of His people as He has ever been, and as we stay faithful to our relationship with Him, He will remain close to us.
Somebody shared a wonderful Palm Sunday musical gift with me this week. Please click on the following link: https://youtu.be/UcpjVt6NOUA.
You’ll immediately know who shared the gift, and you’ll know why the gift was so precious and appreciated.
Please accept my Easter blessings and greetings. Yes, I will be celebrating all these services this week privately, but I can assure you that I’ll be carrying you all to that little altar and there we will joyfully join in true spiritual communion. And as Queen Elizabeth said in her address to her nation, “We’ll meet again!”
With deepest brotherly love in Christ,