Optional Memorial of St. Sharbel Makluf
Dearest Ones in Christ,
“Brothers and sisters: We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
This is the opening sentence of this weekend’s second reading (Romans 8:28). Yes, I read the entire reading, but my attention was arrested by these words. Immediately I thought, “Really? Do I actually believe this, that ALL things work for good?” So, I had to take a little examination of my own heart to see just how firmly I believed Paul’s words, and today I would invite all of you to make this same spiritual exercise. Please don’t rush the exercise, but formulate your questions to yourself very seriously and thoughtfully. “Do I believe that every contact that I have with another person can work for good?” “Do I believe that the painful experiences I have had with some of my family members have and can work for good because of my love for God?” “Do I believe that by smiling at a stranger and just saying ‘hello’ can work for good?” “Do I believe that my every sincere prayer actually is heard and works for both my good and the good of others?” “Do I believe that peaceful demonstrations by people of goodwill can bend towards the good?” “Do I believe that the present pandemic will work for good?” Remember Paul’s words say that ALL THINGS work for good, not just the peaceful, lovely, gentle and fun things of life. ALL THINGS work for good. Growing in that realization is a mile marker for my spiritual life, a sign of just how deep (or how shallow) my love for God actually is. That also stopped me, and I’ve had to truly reflect on my love for Him in these days. While I in no way believe that God has brought this pandemic on the world, I do believe that these days and the experiences contained in each one of them can be a profound message to our hearts about how we live out our love for our Heavenly Father in spite of difficulties and uncertainties. For the Christian, I believe we have been formed for just such times as these, for it is in these times that the light of our Christian love can brightly shine forth in the darkness. So, please, accept my invitation to take time with this spiritual examination, and may you discover in it how God is leading you to deeper levels of spiritual growth.
I was asked this past weekend just how much longer are we going to be without public attendance at Mass. Oh, if I only knew the answer to that one! You know there is no way to even make a guess about it. Very early on in this experience, our bishop cautioned all priests to not make any statements or promises that cannot be backed up or held up. We have to avoid responses such as, “Oh, I don’t think it’ll be too much longer.” How do we know? May I just once again encourage us all to patiently accept each day as it comes, to follow the directives that are given to us by knowledgeable and experienced experts, and be patient with yourselves and others? And, if you get bored, you can always take a moment or two to pray for your pastor. That’s another thing that works for good for those who love God, and I’ll be deeply thankful for your care.
Thank you to all of you who respond to these emails. I can’t answer all of them, but please know that each one is read and so very deeply appreciated. Please know as well that every time I offer my private Masses that you all are in the forefront of my thoughts. I often take time while I’m alone in the church to remember where each of you usually sits, and in that way, I am remembering you in prayer.
One more thing before signing off for this week: Yes, I am using a larger font when I write to you. Several had asked me to do this as the standard-sized font was too small for a number of you to read. Please, if even this font (Times New Roman 12 point) is too small, let me know. Of course, I can’t make it too big or these emails would go on for pages and pages!
So, please accept these few lines for today. As always, I so very much look forward to having a little bit of time and special communion with you this weekend as you come to our parish to share the Eucharist. May it be a time of joyful encounter!
With deepest brotherly love in Christ,