Dear parishioners and friends of S. Bart’s,
This afternoon Bishop Asbil announced that the diocese will enter the first phase of parish reopening on Sunday, 13 September. This is very welcome news to us all.
Last week the Diocese released very detailed steps that must be taken by each parish to ensure that we can meet safely for worship and other activities in our church buildings. Over the next week or so our ministry leaders, our diocesan administrator, and I will be working through these to make sure that we receive diocesan approval to reopen at the earliest possible moment.
I wish to thank you all for your patience throughout this time. It has been, and remains, a time of great uncertainty. Of course, for us, and for all Catholic Christians, the forced separation from the Sacraments has made a difficult situation even more painful. We know that Our Lord comes to us most objectively and most concretely in the Sacrament of His Love, and in His Word proclaimed and preached in the context of the Holy Eucharist. As we receive His most precious Body and Blood, in which He gives Himself to be both adored and consumed by us, and as He speaks to us in His Word written and proclaimed, He communicates to us, as many as receive Him in faith, His own divine-human Life. This, we know, is our whole purpose — to live by the Life of the One who has made us according to his Image and now lives to remake us after His likeness. The Sacraments and the Eucharistic Sacrifice are therefore essential to us; they are not mere ‘optional extras’ to help us on a journey that we could somehow complete without them. They are our way to God, because they are God — God the Son — remaking us in Himself and bringing us back to God.
This is why this time of separation from Our Lord in His Sacraments has been so painful for us. It could not possibly have been otherwise.
Yet we also know that, in Christ, ‘all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28); we know that ‘neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38-39) — and we must also add: nor Covid-19!
Throughout this ‘Covid-tide’ we have all remained in Christ, and in Him, we have remained in one another. Together we have longed to return to our parish church, to our spiritual home, and to meet Our Lord where He gives Himself for us.
And this longing has also been, somehow, essential for us — otherwise the all-good Providence could never have permitted the separation! Absence, it is said, makes the heart grow fonder, and our longing is evidence that we love the one for whom we long. If these past weeks and months have made us long for Our Lord, then that will have been a gift. But we must ‘harness’ that longing, and we must use it as the motivation to prepare — perhaps as we have never prepared before! — to receive Our Lord in our next communion. Jesus is fully present beneath the Sacramental veils: there is therefore sufficient grace in one communion to completely sanctify the world. The only reason we are not fully sanctified in our first communion, or any other communion, is that we do not yet have the capacity to receive it — we are not fully prepared. But the more prepared we are, the more grace we shall receive.
As we prepare our building to reopen, let us, more importantly, make ready our hearts to receive Him at His coming to us in the Bread of Life and the Chalice of Salvation. I encourage you to make your own the Psalmist’s words of exile, the words of his longing:
By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered thee, O Sion….
How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? (Psalm 137).
But let us also remember that before long we shall also be able to sing with the Psalmist:
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Sion, then were we like unto them that dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with joy!
This comes with my blessing and assurance of my prayers.
Pray for one another, and stay safe!
Your affectionate friend and pastor,