April 2020 - Message from Fr. Timothy - Keep Calm and Light a Candle
The virus has infected all of us with confusion, uncertainty and fear. The seriousness of our medical and societal questions intensifies as the curve of infection rises. Projected to peak sometime later this month we remain awestruck by the enormity of this pandemic. As believers and people of faith, the crisis raises additional, more profound questions. The Church does have historical experience with ministry in times of crisis, even pandemics. Here are a few tips gleaned from the tradition, liturgy and teaching of the Church.
Don't panic. There is every reason to be anxious, even as we put our trust in God, but we should trust God patiently while trying to maintain a sense of inner peace. Don't be overwhelmed by conflicting and sometimes false information. There is a lot of erroneous advice out there. God gave each of us a heart and soul that we may know and love Him and each other. He also gave us a mind and intellect that we might learn how best to care for and protect ourselves and each other. I recall a movie where a doctor offering advice to his medical students says that "mankind has always been plagued by two enemies, bacteria and ignorance. To combat bacteria, we develop drugs, against its partner ignorance, we have no vaccine." We should not dismiss the sound advice of scientists, medical experts and public health professionals at a time like this. God is merciful, the virus isn’t. Science will tell us how to deal with the virus. Our faith will tell us how to invite God into our lives to maintain a sense of inner calm, hope and strength. The Church offers this prayer in times such as these “Take away from me fear, anxiety and distress. Help me to face and endure my difficulty with faith, courage and wisdom. Grant that this trial may bring me closer to You for You are my rock and refuge, my comfort and hope, my delight and joy. I trust in Your love and compassion. Amen”
Don't demonize people. They say the FBI is reporting an increase in hate crimes against Chinese Americans, I was appalled to know this. COVID-19 is not a Chinese virus; it's not an alien disease. No one's to blame for the pandemic. Looking for scapegoats is the ultimate sin against charity and compassion. People who are infected with a virus cannot be blamed for the illness. I'm reminded of the incident in the Gospel when Jesus restored sight to a man born blind [Jn 9:1-37] and the witnesses didn't marvel at the miracle so much as they wanted to know who was to blame for the man's blindness. Jesus reprimanded them, saying “no one” [Jn 9:2]. We can’t blame anyone, illness is not a punishment – epidemics, pandemics, plagues are not sent by God in wrath as chastisement. The Church prays; “Bless, O Lord, strengthen and protect with Your grace all those who with compassion and sacrifice take care of the sick at their homes or in hospitals. Remove all disease and suffering from among the people and teach us to value life and health as Your gifts. Give us, O God, Your peace and fill our hearts with steadfast faith in Your protection, with hope in Your support and with love for You and our neighbor. Amen"
Love your neighbor. It sounds like we will be in this "COVID-19" mode for quite a while. Some of us may get sick. Adverse conditions often result in a heroic response. While taking all necessary personal precautions, this is a perfect time to 'visit the sick'. We don't need to do that physically, in fact, we shouldn't, but we can always 'reach out' via phone, email, social media, mail etc. to our shut-ins, the elderly, the infirm. The names of parishioners requesting our prayers and our shut-ins are published in the weekly bulletin – read it online. Many may feel a sense of isolation during these days, stay communicated with each other. The Gospel is clear that our essential duty as Christians is to help others. “I was sick, and you visited me,” said Christ in His sermon on the mount [Mt 25]. Visiting the sick at the time of Jesus was infinitely more dangerous than it is today because of the lack of medical care. Of course, there are among us professional caregivers, medical staff, nurses and doctors, EMT's police and firefighters and others who carry on the Christian tradition of caring for the sick despite considerable personal risk. The Church prays for all caregivers; "O Lord, grant Thy grace to all Your servants who have laboured and studied hour upon hour. They go into all the world to heal by the talent Thou hast given to each of them. Strengthen them, by Thy strength, to fear no evil or disease. Enlighten them to do no evil by the works of their hands, and preserve them and those they serve in peace, for Thou art our God. Amen"
Pray for each other. Our churches are closed and will be for the foreseeable future. That’s a necessary response and a prudent precaution on the part of our civil authorities and our hierarchy to help keep people safe and healthy. They base their directive on the very best advise offered by scientific and medical professionals who are concerned with one thing only, moderating the spread of this virus.
Although absolutely necessary, this extreme measure comes at a cost for those parishioners who feel removed from the comfort offered by attending our liturgical services and receiving the sacraments. They may feel even more isolated from the parish community at a time when they need it most. What can we offer? We ask you to join us in prayer from your home. We offer to come into your homes via live-streaming of our liturgical services and Bible studies for starters. We assure you of our prayers and invite you to pray with us using your Bible or service book at home each day. We ask you to offer prayers for each other and for our parish community. Read the epistle and Gospel of the day found on your church calendar and meditate on the message. Pray as a family at home in your own 'church' remembering the words of Christ; "“Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mt. 18:20). Remember that the Church is not an address but a faith-based parish community. “Love your neighbor” by staying in touch with each other during these unsettling days.
In a few short weeks we will commemorate the Great Feast of the Resurrection and rejoice in the knowledge that Christ is risen granting life to the world. This year our celebration may be different but our joy remains as always. Together let us prepare for and enjoy a most glorious Pascha. Christ Is Risen!
Blessings and Prayers,
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