Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
CANCELLED…we are hearing this word a lot these days, aren’t we? So much has been “cancelled” due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, and rightfully so, to enable us to stop the spread of this virus. It is appropriate to cancel large gatherings, to cancel meetings that are not essential, and to cancel the normal activities of daily life as we know it. Cancelling so much, while important, is uncomfortable. This we are learning.
Some headlines in the past couple of weeks even went so far as to announce EASTER IS CANCELLED. What? Did I read that correct? Is that possible? Well not exactly. We CANNOT and WILL NOT cancel Easter! But we will have to adapt to learning a new way to mark this significant FEAST.
You see we may not be able to do our “normal” activities to mark this most significant Feast but we can find ways to still celebrate! EASTER IS NOT CANCELLED! Jesus Christ is Risen from the dead! ALLELUIA!
We will NOT gather together physically in our churches, but we WILL gather together spiritually using the tools of today as we livestream the Easter Mass on Sunday at 11AM from Saint Bridget Church.
We will NOT be able to travel to see family and friends for our Easter visit to share time, fellowship, and, of course, an Easter meal.
We will NOT come to an Easter Bunny Breakfast or participate in the annual Easter Egg Hunt but we can find ways with our own families to let the children have some fun as they celebrate Easter.
This year more than any other in my life and perhaps yours we need to hear those words of life and hope, Jesus Christ is Risen! He is triumphant over sin and death! I imagine we are not that much unlike the early disciples. They had their hopes ruined when Jesus was put to death. They gave into fear and despair and found themselves locked behind closed doors to avoid being next brought to crucifixion.
Then the miraculous happened. As we hear on Easter Sunday, “On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb”…and the tomb was empty for He was RISEN FROM THE DEAD! And then on Divine Mercy Sunday (next Sunday) we hear “on the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
Think how much we are like those early disciples. We are living in fear right now. We can give in to fear or despair pretty easily as this quarantine continues. We are grieving like they did. Our grieving is different, but perhaps not that different after all. They grieved the loss of their friend Jesus, the one whom they placed their hope in as being the Messiah. We are grieving loss as well. The loss of our “normal” way of life, the loss of those who have died from the Coronavirus, the loss of relatives and friends when we are not able to have the same closure we “normally” would. We, like them, find ourselves in isolation, closed in our homes, away from loved ones and friends, unable to visit one another, think especially of those in nursing care facilities.
YET, in the midst of this time of loss, this time of fear, this time of isolation, we STILL have hope because of Jesus Christ and the new life He offers by His death and resurrection! I recalled in my homily on Palm Sunday a moment in the movie The Passion of Christ when Jesus, burdened under the weight of the cross, falls to the ground. As He struggles to get up, He sees the heartbroken face of His mother. He forces a weak smile and says: “See, mother, I make all things new.”
That is what we await. We want God to make all things new. Including every part of our broken and suffering world. We want Him to transform the world around us. We want Jesus to bring healing, grace, and yes PEACE to our broken and fear-filled world.
The message of Jesus in one of my favorite scripture passages, one often used for funerals, from John 14, is EXACTLY what we need to hear today, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”This Sunday we realize that Jesus went from the Cross of Good Friday to the Resurrection from the Dead on Easter Sunday. Jesus has conquered sin and even death, and my friends He promises nothing less to us. The resurrection of Jesus reminds each and every one of us that death is not an end for us who believe!
The challenge for each of us is to face each day, even during this time of quarantine, with the hope that Easter gives. Each and every one of us face challenges, whether big or small, whether difficult to handle or not, and in these days perhaps we face more challenges than ever. And yet, the joy and hope we have in the Risen Lord allows us to face these challenges with a different focus. We do not face life with a dim and bleak outlook; rather, we face it with hope! For Easter gives us hope!
At the Great Vigil on Holy Saturday night we hear the Easter Proclamation, Exsultet, which so beautifully describes the Resurrection of Jesus. We hear “the sanctifying power of this night dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.” Yes! But why? Because this is the night when Christ broke the prison bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld. This is the night that even now, throughout the world, sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin, and this is the night that leads us to grace and joins us to His holy ones.
That, my friends, is why the resurrection of Jesus gives us the greatest hope! That is why today Christians throughout the world say with great joy “Alleluia, He is risen!”
Continue to pray! Let us continue to pray for one another. Let us pray for our parishioners who are dealing with Coronavirus and for their families. Pray for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one during these difficult times. Pray for those who are alone and feel isolated. Pray for those who are working to care for others such as health care providers, doctors and nurses, aides, EMTs, first responders, police and fire personnel, all of whom are the heroes of our day. Pray for those workers who are showing up every day to do their jobs of grocery store workers, postal workers, bank tellers, gas station attendants, etc., who are providing essential services for us despite any fears they might have. Pray for all who are in need of our prayers that in some way the Risen Lord may bring them hope, peace, and comfort during this time.
I want to thank the many in our parish and community who, being respectful of social distancing, are finding ways to reach out to others in need. Thank you to the many of you who have been so generous in reaching out to your neighbors, making phone calls to those who are alone, shopping for strangers, doing pickups and deliveries, sewing face masks for healthcare workers, delivering meals, collecting food for the Cheshire Community Food Pantry, faithfully sending in donations for the parish, and for checking in on us, your priests.
It is so heartwarming to hear the many ways people are reaching out to others during this time.This is what being a parish family and a Christian community of faith is all about.Even when we cannot gather together physically to celebrate the Sacraments, our faith informs our very lives and sends us forth to make a difference in the lives of others. Thank you for hearing that call. As your pastor, I am extremely proud of and grateful for all of you! Hearing stories like this solidify my conviction that we will get through this together!
Please continue to join us as we do what we can with the tools of social media to bring our family of faith together. Join us when you can! I know we all LONG for the day we can be together once again in church, but until then please know that Father Federico and I are going to do all that we can to connect with you spiritually and virtually.
On behalf of myself, Father Federico, Sister Patricia, our deacons, the pastoral staff, and all the parish staff, I want to wish you and your families a blessed Easter.Despite how different, or even challenging, this Easter may be for us all, may this Easter season be a time of great grace for you and those you love.May the joy and hope that Easter brings into our lives help to quell our fears and strengthen our trust in God and His great love for us.May you experience the presence of the Risen Christ in new and unexpected ways in the weeks to come. Have a blessed Easter and be assured of our love and prayers!
As always, remember to pray for our parish family and ask God’s blessings upon us all in this time of pandemic. With the gracious intercession of Saint Bridget of Sweden, our Patroness, may we be united with one another in prayer! Please pray for me and know that I am praying for you!