Over the past few weeks, I have made an effort, like so many other pastors throughout the Archdiocese, to call all of the parishioners of the parish. This week, I finally made it through all 412 pages of the parish directory. As I spoke with many of our parishioners, I was struck by the efforts that so many people were making to stay away from their loved ones so that they could keep them safe. This was particularly true last weekend as we celebrated Mother’s Day. Many people told me that they were planning on doing something for their mothers that would show their love for them by somehow staying away and keeping a distance. This is something that many people are doing for their loved ones as they leave groceries on the front step, wave through the window to a loved one in a nursing home, or send a virtual kiss or hug over the internet. We are keeping away from our loved ones because this is the loving thing to do at this time and this is how we can keep them safe.
Cardinal Collins recently made this point in a video conference with the priests of the Archdiocese. In this video conference, the Cardinal reminded the priests of the Archdiocese that the reason that we are not gathering with our communities at this time to celebrate the Eucharist is in order that we might be faithful to Christ’s commandment to love one another. When we love people, we do nothing to harm them. At this time, showing love for our neighbours, and the members of our community, means following the advice of the medical health officers and finding other ways of caring for those who are sick, alone, isolated, and in need of our love and charity.
So often when people are in need or sick, we think of going to be with them and standing at their side. We see this in today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Philip goes to the people of Samaria to cure those who are sick. Today, we are asked to maintain a distance and find other ways of expressing our love. Our support for others is now to be done by prayer, acts of charity at a distance, or perhaps by giving to our parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society. In our own parish community, the St. Vincent de Paul continues its good work by mailing food vouchers to those who live within our parish community. The St. Vincent de Paul Society has also provided me with bagged meals so that I may give food to those who come in need to the parish doors. Please do not forget the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society during this time of great need. Donations can be mailed to the office or left in the parish mailbox.
This time of isolation has left many people feeling alone and abandoned. In the face of these feelings, Jesus words in this Sunday’s Gospel are so important: “I will not leave you orphaned, I am coming to you.” Jesus tells His disciples that if they love Him, they will keep His commandments. His greatest commandments are that we the Lord our God with all our heart and our neighbour as ourselves. During this time of pandemic, we love our neighbour by listening to the health officers of our cities and province so that we may protect others by maintaining social distance. However, because our motivation for doing this is love of our neighbour, we can be secure that Christ is with us as we hear His promise to send the Holy Spirit to and be present with all those who keep His commandments. As we who love Christ remain apart for the sake of loving one another, Jesus says to us in today’s Gospel: “The one who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me; and the one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them reveal myself to them.” The Gospel reminds us that we are never left alone by Christ. As we remain apart out of love for one another, God is present to each one of us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
One of the things that people have been doing in our cities during this pandemic has been to bang pots and honk their horns to show their support for the health care workers. I thought of this as I read today’s psalm response: “Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth.” I myself have taken to sending sung greetings to a few priest friends who celebrated the anniversary of their ordination this month. They have told me that I do not have the voice for such greetings and asked me to refrain from doing this again. However, there are other ways that we can use our voices to break through the isolation we are facing at this time. We can always lift our voices to God in prayer and know that He is always with us and never leaves us orphans. This is a time to call friends and loved ones and let them know that we are thinking of them. Small acts of charity are so important at this time. Grocery shopping for a senior, mowing a neighbours lawn, or just waving at others from across the street are gestures that mean so much at this time. Please think of ways that you can make a joyful noise that helps you break the isolation through prayer and acts of charity.
Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel that He is with all those who keep His commandments. We keep His commandments by loving one another. While this love calls us now to keep apart, it still calls us to love God, our parish communities and those who are in need. The theme of Sharelife is “Living the Gospel.” Sharelife funds so many organizations that continue to care for those in need during this pandemic. Please if you are able at this time, remember the needs of Sharelife, your parish community and your local St. Vincent de Paul. The need is greater now then ever.
During my call to all of our parishioners, so many of them brought up on their own that they have their donations at home and will bring them when the church reopens. Sharelife and the parish need your support now so that we can continue to serve you and the needs of so many. If you are able to do so, please consider mailing your donations, dropping them off at the parish, or donating through the Archdiocesan website at: www. archtoronto.org. Although it is love that calls us to remain apart during these difficult times, the commandment to love our neighbour continues to call us to acts of charity and to support our church in its effort to “Live the Gospel” through our parishes and Archdiocese.
Christ’s promise that He will never leave us orphans is extremely comforting through this time of isolation. Let us help others to feel this presence by our prayers, acts of charity, and support for our own parish community and Sharelife.
Fr. Michael McGourty
Pastor—St. Peter’s Church—Toronto.
This reflection is based upon the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter: Acts: 5-5-8; 1 Peter 3:15-18; and John 14: 15-21.