LORD, TO WHOM SHALL WE GO?

Is ‘the Church’ Closed for the Virus?

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No way! Forgetaboutit! Never in your life!

Now, the “church” (small “c”) building might be locked-up—although so many are open for a good part of each day so folks can pray— and the public celebration of Mass is on hold for a while.

But the “Church” (capital “C”) can never be closed! “The Church” is not our buildings, but the “living stones”—you and me, with the Apostles as the foundation, and Jesus as the cornerstone—and is more alive than ever.

No one, nobody, nowhere can close “The Church.” Oh, not that some have not tried, to this day, when thugs in places like China, Nigeria, parts of India, and Syria are indeed not only trying to close the “Church” but exterminate it.

History tells us they’re wasting their time. Ask Nero, the Barbarians, Napoleon, Hitler, or Stalin, just to name a few who thought they could abort the life of “the Church.”

If they had succeeded, well then, Jesus must have been a deceiver! He’s the One who assured us “the gates of hell shall not prevail,” because “I will be with you for all ages, even until the end of the world.” To even hint that Jesus fibbed is blasphemy, for He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Well, some skeptics continue, “the Mass and the sacraments are closed to us.”

True, we miss regular Sunday Mass, Holy Communion, and Confession deeply, and long for their return. But Mass is offered daily by our priests, and no Eucharist is “private.” Every time we priests have the honor of approaching the altar, we are in the company of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—Our Blessed Mother and the Communion of Saints, and all God’s People, so that “from the rising of the sun to its setting, a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name.”

Our parish priests have risen to the occasion, with innovative ways to distribute Holy Communion, expose the Blessed Sacrament for adoration, hear confessions and anoint and visit the sick. They assemble at graveside to bury our dead. Our courageous chaplains in hospitals and nursing homes are on the front lines with the fortification of the sacraments.

All this is accomplished with care given to protection, sanitation, and distancing, as we have a moral obligation never to compromise our own health or that of another.

Then there is the crescendo of prayer sounding in the hearts of families, households, or folks by themselves who are united with Jesus and His Church in the sanctuary of their baptized souls. How many are telling us that their prayer, their reliance on the Bible, their consciousness of the spiritual connection we have in the Body of Christ, the Church, are more alive than ever.

Don’t forget the faith that keeps our health care professionals going; the hope that animates our “essential workers” as they know they’re helping us all; the charity that inspires so many neighbors, and community/Church volunteers and employees to work even more generously.

The Church’s health care apostolate—in these acres of the Lord’s vast vineyard called “the Archdiocese of New York” found in ArchCare and so many hospitals, health facilities, visiting professionals, and nursing homes often cared for by sisters—hums along even with an even more accelerated energy...

...While our renowned Catholic Charities is serving more meals than ever, keeping an eye out for those scared and forgotten—like the immigrants and refugees—and providing our parishes with sustenance to assist their struggling people.

Our religious education engine is purring, with classes, catechesis, faith formation, reflections, and Bible study up-and-running online.

Our acclaimed Catholic schools are sure “in session,” with dedicated teachers tutoring their students at a distance, counting upon parents to exercise their duty as the “primary educators.”

How our parish priests are creative in using technology to keep in touch with their people, especially the homebound, and providing virtual Masses and devotions.

Can any of us deny that the radiance of the Lord’s Resurrection is obvious in the sense of unity and purpose we all detect, in the leadership of our civic leaders and medical professionals, and in the rediscovered deep down longing for God which the frustration, helplessness, and adversity of this virus has uncovered!

Don’t give me any of that “the Church is closed” nonsense! “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord” and He’s sure not on sabbatical!

As Pope St. John Paul II often exhorted, “Love for Jesus and His Church is the passion of our lives!”

And as Pope Francis asked me when he telephoned last week, “Tell your people their faith, hope, and love inspires us all!”

The Church is open!

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