A Pastoral Letter from Fr. Cosmas in this time of great Distress and Anguish
Re: Keep Calm, Pray On, Reach out and Trust God
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As you know, this week, the government of Ontario declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought the world to a standstill. As a result of that, Archbishop Mulhall joined the other bishops in Ontario to direct that all Churches in the Archdiocese be closed, with masses and other parish events and services cancelled. These are prudent precautionary measures designed to keep us all safe and healthy.
This was not an easy decision for the Church authorities to make. Spiritually, this came at a cost. As Catholics, the celebration of the Eucharist is the life wire and the oxygen of our faith without which we feel lost and deprived. I am sure that some of us are wondering where our spiritual support will come from, without our usual daily and weekly community gatherings and masses.
However, this temporary closure of our Church doors for masses and celebrations does not, and should not mean the closure of our hearts to God and to man. Rather, it should open our hearts to God and to each other in new ways. It gives us some unique opportunities to rediscover ourselves as a spiritual family. A time like this calls for a deeper reflection on our relationship with God and with each other.
Incidentally, everything is happening during, and through the holy season of Lent. Ordinarily, during Lent, we draw closer to God and to our neighbors. We may not be able to congregate at this time; however, we remain spiritually connected to each other. This is indeed the time for us to be spiritually creative. How does one do that? You may ask.
We all have every reason to panic, to be concerned and afraid. That is a natural response to a situation of this nature. However, panic and fear are not from God. Calm, peace and hope are from God. Psalm 46:10 reminds us- “Be still and know that I am God.” Through the prophet Isaiah, God says to us “Don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right-hand. (Is 41:10). In the Gospel, Jesus tells his followers and us “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). So, brothers and sisters, let us continue to listen to the voice of God who alone can give us peace and calm at this time.
Our church is closed, our Masses are cancelled but our hands and hearts remain open to God in prayer. One thing that has been reinforced at this time is the value of virtual spirituality in time of great distress. Thanks to technology, we can join different virtual communities in prayer. There are many televised and livestreamed masses available. I am hoping that our parish will also join other communities in livestreaming our Sunday Eucharistic celebration, until such a time when we can gather again. But whatever the case may be, you can pray on your own. When you do, remember that you are still part of our community. Pray especially that God may to come to our aid and end this pandemic.
Reach in, Reach Out and Touch
This pandemic has forced many of us to stay home at this time. May be, this time will give us the opportunity to reach in and touch the lives and hearts of our family members, who ordinarily would not have enjoyed our availability due to our busy schedules. Let us then turn this into a great opportunity to reach in and touch them in more ways than one.
Equally, we have been asked to take the necessary precautions and not risk spreading the disease. This is the right thing to do, for we do not need to be reckless. However, in doing so, let us not forget our fundamental Christian duty to help others. “I was sick, and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25). At this time this can even mean a phone call, a text message or an email. So, while our doors remain closed, let our hearts remain wide open to the sick, the elderly, the shut-ins, the isolated and the poor.
Trust in God
This pandemic raises many questions in our hearts about human existence and suffering. Perhaps, we ask; why has God allowed us to suffer in this way? There is no satisfactory answer to this question. Yet, we can still trust in God. One thing that we are sure of is that he promised to be with us at all times. He understands the fears and worries that we have. So, let us continue to trust in Him who knows all things and who can do all things including bringing this pandemic to an end.
Therefore, in these days of silence, solitude, and distress; let us keep calm, pray on, reach in, reach out, trust in God, and draw closer to him and to each other until we meet again at his table. May St Joseph and our Blessed Mother, our Lady of Ransom intercede for us and the whole world.
Yours brother and friend in Christ.
Fr. Cosmas Ajawara