June 7, 2020 Pastor Message05/18/2021
“In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: ‘Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths.’ For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” (Isaiah 2:25).
As I write this week’s column, two events continue to spread across our country: protests and riots over the death of George Floyd, and the resumption of public worship in churches, including our own. These events may seem to be unrelated at first: one, a rage-filled outcry against what at least initially appears to be another fatal use of excessive force by police in the arrest of a black man; the other, a joy-filled return to the house of the Lord by a people returning from the exile of shelter-in-place orders. Yet both events, like all things, are subject to God’s saving providence, and I for one cannot help but feel that the reopening of churches is in some mysterious way God’s answer to all of the conflict his way of calling us from death to life, from violence to peace, from the cross to resurrection.
At the very least, I can say with certainty that, without God, there can be no peace and unity among people. Left to ourselves, our weakness, prejudice, hatred, and selfishness will always find a way to drive us apart. In the reopening of churches, God is calling his lost children home again to learn his ways and walk in his paths, as we read in the above passage from Isaiah, and to do so together, black and white, young and old, rich and poor, as one Body, united in one Spirit, sons and daughters of one Lord.
Churches are signs of our unity in God. But they can only fulfill that purpose when we ourselves commit to that unity with the help of the grace we come to church to celebrate and receive in the one saving sacrifice of Christ. That begins by our willingness to sacrifice our own personal preferences for the good of our fellow parishioners in union with Christ. As we return to church, at a time when our own health and best judgment permits, the many rules the bishop has asked us to follow for the health of others will require sacrifice on each of our parts. We may not be able to sit in our preferred pew. We will have to wear masks and observe social distancing. We will have to wait longer before processing for Holy Communion or leaving at the end of Mass. These things will test our patience. If you find yourself becoming upset or frustrated, I ask you to remember why we are at Mass and what our church means. Offer up your personal sacrifices with Christ for the sake of the unity of our church so that we might be a beacon of unity for our divided country.
I’m not saying that by treating each other with patience, understanding, and respect at church we will somehow magically stop racial violence in our country, but it is a step in the right direction, a step we take with Christ on the road to the true and lasting home of all, the kingdom of God. Let us take that step together, walking the light of the Lord as we begin public Masses again at St. Boniface.
Fr. Marc Stockton