Yes, the title was inspired by Charlie Brown.
The people of God are grieving. Yes, we are grieving the loss of our normalcy in worship. The novel Coronavirus that has swept the globe with its rates of infection and deadliness, has presented a challenge to the people of God that no generation prior has experienced. When the disease you're fighting prevents you from gathering together as the body of Christ, you feel a sense of loss, or at least, I do. Yet, God provides a means for us to come together as a larger church while maintaining our social distance. Take time to consider the scriptures for this weekend in a more profound way. Martha doesn't blame Jesus for the death of her brother, Lazarus. She believes that Jesus could have prevented his death in the first place because she understands Jesus is Christ. Jesus doesn't comfort Martha for very long; he points out that her hope lies in the resurrection. But then Jesus does the unthinkable. He proclaims that he is the resurrection. HE IS THE RESURRECTION. Jesus summons Lazarus out of the tomb, and we see a miracle at the moment. As one of my former pastors used to say, sadly, Lazarus had to die twice. Maybe we need to think about that a little more as our resurrection is looming on the horizon.
The Church, as a whole, is dying. Yes, I said it because it is true. The people who remain faithful are going crazy, realizing that their communities are withering from the exodus of the millennial and Gen Z populations. The excitement and rage around the Church is a NEW EVANGELIZATION. I've been to more diocesean workshops and meetings, webinars, and newsletters promoting this idea. Just when we think we have an idea of what will bring our lost sheep home, COVID-19 disrupts the entire plan. But maybe that turmoil brings out a new evangelization? Now, Holy Week is Canceled. Sunday Masses, No longer for the public. Receiving sacraments is a real challenge in the era of infectious disease. But the good grief that comes from this whole ordeal is the shift of our efforts. We have to adapt to no longer needing the physical building of the Church. People of my parish are huddling around their computers and smartTV's to participate in Mass via Youtube. The people are experiencing a different form of communion known as a "spiritual communion." They are learning more about the resilience of our life of faith than they ever anticipated. This separation is developing a thirst we must embrace as our Lenten sacrifice. We have a human yearning for community and us Catholics, a need for the Real Presence of Christ present in the Word and Eucharist. This grief surrounding certain losses has brought a new life to the Church. We've moved toward an online presence. We are broadcasting our Mass and coming together in an on-demand way that is culturally common but not previously embraced by the Church. Think about this for a moment. Priests are no longer dispensaries of sacraments. They, for the first time in many of their vocations, have time off. The immense responsibility of shepherding a flock of thousands is the need to stretch far enough to know each of the sheep. The way we do it has shifted from face to face meetings toward phone calls and video chat sessions. Comments on a video get recorded with the names and profiles of the users. While mere avatars, they are still our people on the other end of that fiber optic cable. Our staff isn't crushed by the deadline to print a bulletin, we simply upload a file to "the cloud," and it becomes available to anyone savvy enough to find the hyperlink. We are not in a panic about our calendar of events because there are no events. We miss the events, but not the hustle and stress that leads up to making them happen for our community. Our Parishioners are sad not to be receiving sacraments on the daily, but they also understand keeping our distance is the best way to embrace our return in weeks or months down the road. We are set up for a massive resurrection of sorts. This resurrection of the Church is rooted in the Spirit that remains united between all of us. If anything, this pandemic can teach us is that we are one human family no matter what. The connections we build back from this experience will be a uniting factor for years or decades to come. As you huddle around your computers, smartphones, smartTV's, or, however you access our online communities now, remember, God planned for us to take advantage of this opportunity to minister to one another by helping our neighbors in staying semi-isolated. We have a chance to minister as parents, spouses, single people in the joy of our living rooms. That's how we light a candle among this darkness. That's how we are still the body of Christ in the world. Gosh, we are blessed! May you and your families stay healthy, safe, and fed during all this mess and remember, you are not alone in the slightest. You can be an instrument of God's peace in this tumultuous time. Peace, -Matt
Here's a song to meditate on.