Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent (March 29, 2020)

Fr. Hottovy

“I am the resurrection and the life”

These words of Jesus from today’s gospel seem particularly ironic when America now has the most confirmed cases of coronavirus in the world and our country’s death toll is over 2,200 and quickly increasing.  But the fact of the matter is that as we face very challenging days ahead these words of Jesus are exactly what we need to hear at this moment and to be assured that our Lord hears and responds to the deepest cries and pains of the human heart.

We are reminded that even Jesus experienced the suffering of the death of his close friend Lazarus.  Jesus is not immune to our fears, concern, suffering and pain.  He meets us and joins us exactly where we need strength and healing most.

In this gospel we are reminded of the reality of our own mortality and that the worst thing that can happen to us in not physical death but spiritual death that is eternal.  But even death we are not to fear.  Christ is the antidote to death as he robustly declares, “I am the resurrection and the life”.  If we cling to him we have nothing to fear.  He reassures us: “whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die”.

This past Saturday we were planning on having Confirmation in our parish.  It has been indefinitely postponed for a time when things get back more to “normal.”  It’s good to keep our Confirmandi class in your prayers as their time of preparation and anticipation of receiving the Holy Spirit has been extended.  As young people they also are trying to make sense and grapple with these challenging times.

We obviously have experienced a lot of changes, very quickly.  One of the most striking for many was the announcement that public Masses and the reception of Holy Communion would be unavailable indefinitely.  Having to adjust so quickly admittedly can take some time.  So the first few days of being home with the family may have been a little disjointed but now we are a few weeks into this time of isolation. With the schools getting assignments ready for students, and I really would like to applaud how quickly our teachers and staff have made the transition to virtual assignments and teaching, although we are no longer having classes in our school building, the school year is in full swing and education is being continued in a different way.

With so much of life on pause and so many things that have been stripped away, our families have entered into spending most of our time within our homes which have become domestic monasteries or domestic churches. We are all following the words from the Gospel of Ash Wednesday: “But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.” We are together following Jesus in the desert, living our Lent with social distancing. So now is the perfect time to focus on living together as a family and establishing a kind of routine of prayer. While each family member might have different obligations even while home (such as a parent working from home in the office, each child checking on online work, etc.) most of our family routine can now be together. We can eat three meals together if we choose, and we can gather for times of prayer more readily because everyone is around.  Admittedly, being in closer quarters for longer periods of time can definitely test our patience and charity with one another but it is an opportunity to strengthen family bonds.

We are not in a time of persecution that requires our Catholic faith to go underground. We are temporarily deprived of attending Mass in person and receiving Holy Communion, but opportunities of living our faith abound especially now. Just online alone there are numerous opportunities; it can be hard to narrow down choices. So many priests and parishes are offering live-streaming Masses, as we have been doing at St. Teresa’s as well as streaming Eucharistic Adoration and Stations of the Cross.  This past Friday I know many of you joined Pope Francis who called the whole world to pray together for an end to the pandemic and for all of those on the front lines.  As we joined Pope Francis in adoration, the setting was eerily appropriate with St. Peter’s Square, which is usually bustling with people, empty and somber with clouds and rain.  He also prayed before a miraculous crucifix, with the rain falling on Christ’s body along with the painted blood made it seem as if one were at the Crucifixion. It was a powerful moment to know that the Mystical Body was connected all at one time beseeching heaven.

This more simplified time can be an opportunity to have a monastic rhythm to the day for one’s family.  Holy Mass can be joined online daily.  Allow the Angelus chimes from the church at noon and 6 pm to remind you to pray the Angelus together.  Set a daily notification for 3:00 pm to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and in the evening pray the rosary as a family.

Take time to do spiritual reading.  We have free access (see the bulletin for the code) to the great Catholic platform FORMED, that some have called a Catholic form of Netflix, that has a nice variety of Catholic movies, Bible studies, children’s show as well as countless Catholic books that you have access to.

Please let us know if any family member or neighbor is hospitalized so as we can all keep them in our prayers. If anyone is in need of a helping hand there is a whole list of us in the parish willing to volunteer in whatever way is needed. Many thanks to those who have made contact in this regard.  I also wish to thank those who have very kindly touched base with me, checking that the priests here and I are doing ok! We are all in this together, so let us pray each day for everyone in the parish and our loved ones.

Jesus, our Resurrection and Life, have mercy on us

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us.

St. Corona, Patroness against pandemics, pray for us.

St. Teresa, pray for us.