I am so very much impressed by the marvelous way the parishioners of St. Ann’s are handling the COVID-19 pandemic! We always believe that the trying times bring out the best in each of us, and I can testify to that from what I have witnessed here at St. Ann’s. There has been tremendous outreach to those who are afflicted by the virus and concern for the homebound to make sure they are being taken care of. The prayer lines have been very active, and I have received many encouraging emails and phone calls from parishioners wanting to do whatever they can to be of help. It is difficult to discover that sometimes all we can do is pray. While I have a few people who are having a hard time dealing with the stress of the pandemic and to whom I have to offer occasional words of comfort and reassurance, the overwhelming attitude I am seeing among you is a positive resolution that we will get through this together, and in the end, it will make us more appreciative of what really matters in life and not to sweat the small stuff.
I’m sure you have read some of the comments in the news about some groups of people protesting the shutdown of churches. Someone sent me a homily by a priest which said that Satan is laughing because he got the churches shut down, and that we should open our churches so as not to give him the victory. Someone even told me that the powers of hell are prevailing against the Church. Nonsense! Just as the faith has survived in countries where worship was prohibited, it will survive the Corona virus. You may have heard of the bishop from some Protestant denomination in Virginia who defied the order to shut down the churches. He told his people that our God is greater than this virus, so we can still gather despite the danger. He told his people to stay close in the congregation and not keep social distancing to prove it. The people gave him a standing ovation. Guess what? The bishop caught the COVID-19 virus and died of it. He gave it to his wife, and his daughter then told all the people to stay home and obey the social distancing orders. What happened there is what we call the sin of presumption, of thinking we can throw caution to the wind and expect God to save us. Do you recall one of the temptations of Jesus by the Devil? He took Him to the parapet of the Temple and said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘he will send his angels to guard him lest he dash his foot against a stone.’” Jesus simply responded, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test!” It’s one thing to face a dangerous situation we can’t avoid, especially for the sake of the Gospel, and trust that God will protect us. It’s quite another to frivolously ignore rules of safety and expect God to cover our backs! Common sense must always prevail. We are doing the right thing by closing the churches and not gathering publicly until the pandemic is over. When we can finally get together again we will truly feel the Easter joy of being risen!