April 5, 2020
Blessings upon everyone. You are very much in my thoughts and prayers each day. I’m not sure to what extent you and your families have each developed new daily & weekly routines. After 3 weeks, I still find myself asking, ‘What day is it?’ a lot but I am coming around to a new schedule. Something I dearly need for my spiritual, emotional, and psychological health. Thank you to those many of you who have emailed, called, and texted me to check on me. I am doing quite fine. The parish is much more quiet these days. I’m enjoying being home most days by mid-afternoon versus late evening, but am staying content and occupied.
I know there is still much anxiety and concern. Now growing job losses and continued infection rates add to our already too long of a list. Telling you not to worry seems a bit like telling a drowning person to simply swim. Our concerns are real. Lives are upended. Uncertainty is everywhere. News swings right and left and markets surge and pull back. Government leaders at all levels give challenging, grim, and sometimes conflicting information. I feel it too. Nearly all of it is beyond the control of any single one of us.
In the midst of this, it also sounds rather cliché of me to simply tell you to pray. But of course pray. Bring your concerns, fears, and anxiety to God. A slow read through Chapter 6 of Matthew’s Gospel which we read from back on Ash Wednesday might be instructive. Lent starts with the great call to Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. Matthew 6 begins with these same themes as part of Jesus’s teaching. Then He proceeds to teach the Lord’s Prayer – Our Father. Jesus knew that in the midst of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we must look to the Father as dependent children. As little ones. As beloved children, in union with the Son of God. It requires littleness, vulnerability, openness. Jesus says for such beloved children, we must look to the light and turn from the darkness. Then Jesus concludes with an exhortation of how God cares for the birds of the sky and the wildflowers for whom the Father so generously and gloriously provides. You are much more important than these. He is here. God is always here. Prayer if anything is the cry of the small child in the dark of night looking for comfort from the loving, attentive, and every present parent. The parent may in the dark of night does not call for the sunrise. The parent reminds the child by their embrace that they are not alone in their darkness and fear. So yes, pray. Come to the Father and allow Him to embrace you in your fears. The sun will indeed rise, but neither you nor I can call it forth. God has set its time and season. But God the Father, will when we cry out embrace us, hold us, soothe us in our present darkness of anxiety and fear. Be still. You are not alone. You are never alone. I AM… here.
Moving into Holy Week, we see just how profoundly Jesus Christ, the Son, demonstrates this profound Truth of the Father. Jesus takes His earlier teaching of dependence upon the Father in Chapter 6 and lives it out truly in suffering and death of chapters 26 and 27 from which our Palm Sunday Passion reading comes this year. Words of comfort, encouragement to pray, teaching of dependence is all one thing. It is the invitation to Faith. But living it out in our daily life – even in these darkened days of pandemic and closures and home-stays – is the acceptance of Faith truly made Incarnate – made Flesh – made manifest. Not just 2000 years ago, but here and now in you and I. The Father was with the Son throughout the whole, just as the Father is with us, His sons and daughters, in this current part.
While we are not gathering together in these days physically for Mass, devotions, and fellowship, the financial needs of the parish continue. Our dependence upon weekly offerings and the annual Easter Sunday collection are vital to our parish. Thank you to those who have utilized e-Giving for a while. Thank you to those who have newly joined in this time. Thank you to those who continue to mail in contributions to the office. It is all much appreciated and a sign of your continued dedication to our parish – even when we can’t be together. Please consider joining in.
Annually, our parishes are invited to participate in 12 to 14 special national and international collections for Catholic needs. I rarely say too much about any of these collections. They are worthwhile. There are envelops in the packets and options available on the parish Faith Direct e-Giving site. But of them, I personally have a special affinity to the Good Friday Collection for Christians in the Holy Land. The number of Christians in the Holy Land has been in steady decline for decades (maybe centuries!) for the life there is very challenging for these minority Faithful. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ, who help to maintain the Christian Faith in the Holy Land of its origin. These are the people who care for the Church and the churches at the Holy Sites of Jesus’ teachings, miracles, and saving mission. I encourage you to join me in caring for them.
From the Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land:
“Today, there are approximately 150,000 Christians living in the Holy Land. Due to severe political and economic hardships, hundreds of Christian families leave the Holy Land each year. This steady Christian exodus from the land where Christianity began suggests that within the next 50 years, the Christian community will cease to exist unless something is done.
As the Christian population struggles to survive in a volatile political environment of ethnic distrust, the FFHL uses every available resource to give Christians a reason to remain in their home; thus accomplishing our mission of safeguarding the Christian presence in the Holy Land.”
Know of my prayers and fasting for you daily, but especially as we each share in a different and immediate way the Passiontide of our Lord.
Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Pray for us!
~ Fr Jeremy M. Gries