April 2020 Four County Catholic
There Is A Season
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
There was a song that I recall from my youth called Turn, Turn, Turn. The lyric will be familiar to you —
To every thing, turn, turn, turn
there is a season, turn, turn, turn
and a time to every purpose
I realize today that the lyrics were inspired by Ecclesiastes Chapter 3. Its message speaks to the public health crisis we are living through together.
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep...
We are living in unprecedented times. As the song tells us and we know all too well, every thing has its time. It is a time for faith, a time for renewal, and yes, a time, paradoxically, for community and communion — even as we are forced to keep our distance.
In the last few weeks, we have all heard the phrases and understand the meaning of “social distancing” and “flattening the curve.” Our healthcare experts, government officials and news media have repeated these terms and told us, that this is the way to counteract the spread of the virus. I have acted upon this, as have other Bishops, by suspending all public Masses and postponing other diocesan events for a while.
I am reminded of two other phrases, “Be not afraid” and “Do not worry”.
Jesus, the Great Healer, spoke these words on more than one occasion. We would do well to include these in our vocabulary as we practice social distancing, hand washing and all the other recommendations that the experts tell us will help flatten the curve.
Pope Francis on March 27 graced us with a moving and extraordinary Urbi et Orbi meditation and blessing in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
He likened our current plight to that of the disciples in the Gospel, who, while in a boat with Jesus, were frightened by an unexpected and turbulent storm. Pope Francis said, “We have realized that we are in the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other.”
Pope Francis went on to say that God is “calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing . . . a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is the time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.”
I have been impressed with those who, in spite of this pandemic, talk of a time for kindness, a time for grace and a time for generosity. A time to assess what is important in our lives — a time to realize we are blessed with the opportunity to look inward to our faith and to our values. A time to put our faith into action. A time to look after the vulnerable. It is a blessing; it is all grace.
This has sparked a time of creativity and the embrace of technology to help us practice our faith. I am grateful for the number of priests, deacons and lay people who are stepping up to make available online, devotions such as the Rosary and Stations of the Cross, as well as, celebrating private Masses for anyone with a smartphone or a computer to see.
As you go through the next weeks and months, I encourage you to look for the stories, the many, many wonderful stories of people putting their faith into action during this time of crisis. People stepping forward with heroic acts of service to others.
The Holy Father asks us, “How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are victorious weapons.”
As we move forward in the next weeks and months may we see the love of Christ in every sacrifice and act of generosity during this crisis – a crisis that will pass — and make us all the stronger and more appreciative of our love for each other in our shared love of our Savior and Redeemer.
Now is the time to invite Jesus into the boats of our lives and welcome His Easter message of hope.
Sincerely yours in the healing power of Christ,
Michael R. Cote
Bishop of Norwich