Apr 25, 2020
While Social Distancing
If our Lord were to return to walk among us as He did in the past, maybe now would be a good time. But He would have to be careful!
First, He was never one to stay indoors. Even the four walls of the tomb could not contain Him.
Second, He would have to wear a mask while in public and it would hide His full identity. But then again, many who met Him the first time failed to recognize Him immediately.
Third, He would have to practice social distancing. This He had already mastered after forty days in the desert when the devil tried to tempt Him.
Even though many parishioners might feel the absence of Christ, be assured He is not very far away. Our Lord is well versed in avoiding public places when He has to, covering His face and keeping a discreet distance, even from His own disciples, when He needs to.
All three of these behaviors we are now well versed in. But they align perfectly in the Gospel account assigned by the Church for this Sunday, commonly called “The Road to Emmaus”. It is well worth reading and reflecting upon (Gospel of Luke 24:13-35).
This Gospel prepares us all when we venture outside to stretch our legs, go to the store to pick up food or swing by the church for a quick visit on the way.
This is how He teaches us, albeit the long way round, to prepare for, to receive when ready and to enter into Holy Communion with Him.
What a surprise it will be and a joy worth waiting for as we now find ourselves on the Road to Emmaus accompanied by Christ along the way Who is preparing our hungry souls for Communion with Him.
Father Cávana Wallace
Apr 17, 2020
It has been just over a month since public gatherings have been restricted. During that time, the number of non-related people authorized to share the same space got smaller and smaller. If we, perchance, find ourselves in a public place with a number of others, it is natural to pick up on a collective but silent sense of nervousness, frustration or even anxiety. How close can we get to someone we see to communicate to them effectively. We are essentially becoming more and more observers of the world rather than participants.
A week after the first Easter, the disciples of Christ found themselves in much the same situation. Some, but not all of them, were visited by the resurrected Christ. Think of the women who went to the empty tomb on Easter morning. They wanted, no doubt, to tell everyone, but the apostles and the whole city was experiencing its own religious and political pandemic from the lingering fallout after the crucifixion of Jesus. St. Mary Magellan tried to be a breath of fresh air, but her efforts were first met by social distancing, sadly first by the family of apostles who had taken her into their company.
Natural caution forced everyone to be careful about what they said in public. For those who had met the Risen Lord, it was now like trying to go about your ordinary business wearing a mask over their mouth!
Other disciples, who had only heard news and rumors of Christ’s resurrection from the dead with no first hand evidence, such as St. Thomas. He had no problem dismissing the reports at first and relied solely on science to heal all the world's ills. Being under lockdown with the other apostles was probably also driving him a bit crazy. Finding an excuse to leave the confinement of the Upper Room (maybe to buy essentials), Thomas was, no doubt, very careful with whom he came in contact with and likely tried to stay away from any public gatherings as he wandered through the deserted back streets.
Even St. Peter, a fisherman now forced to stay indoors in a city far from his familiar lakes or shoreline, was also getting restless. He was probably not used to being still, inactive or unproductive. Now under a self imposed house arrest, he had time to think and reflect, and maybe too much time. This was something a man like him was maybe not used to doing for too long. In his isolation he would have been forced to revisit memories surrounding his own cowardice during Christ’s trial. Could we imagine him in our present situation binge watching movies, television shows and continuous scrolling through the internet in an effort to distract himself from the reality of the world outside or his own past sins or weaknesses?
The approaching Lord’s Day is providentially called “Divine Mercy Sunday”. It is timely to recall that one week after our Lord rose from the dead, when the first disciples dared not to leave their house, even to visit their usual place of worship, the crucified but now Risen Christ instead entered into their home. He did so, not by cable or WiFi, nor by a holy image on the wall or by a page of Scripture prophecy fulfilled. Instead, when our minds, hearts and souls are finally ready to reflect and admit to our sheer inability to heal our own wounds bruised by our sins or from injuries inflicted through life, only then can the presence of Christ the Divine Mercy of God enter.
In preparation for Divine Mercy Sunday, reflect, even imagine how St. Mary Magdalene, St. Thomas and St. Peter where each reconciled to the Risen Lord, other only after first experiencing anxiety, doubt and denial. Maybe this what should happen first when we are under stay-at-home orders and the Lord of Easter wants to prepare us to venture out when the time is right. And if we do, the image of the Divine Mercy hanging behind the tabernacle in the church, will remind us that the Eucharistic Presence of forgiving Christ is always within reach.
Apr 12, 2020
He who suffered and died for our sins, has won the final battle. He has risen from the dead!
Christ’s Resurrection, unlike His crucifixion, was not a public spectacle. No mere mortal could have witnessed that moment when Christ rose from death. Even those who guarded the tomb where first knocked unconscious!
Saint Mary Magdellan who was the first one on the scene that first Easter morning before the sun rose, was first distressed at the sight of an empty tomb. We also share in her anguish, when we try to return to places we closely associate with our faith and find a curious, if not disturbing void.
Naturally, we still long, as did Mary Magdellan, to return to the way it used to be. Her holy nostalgia temporarily blinded her to something new, Someone new. How easy it is for us to call out His name. But, only when we can hear Him now calling out our name, then we will know that the Risen Christ has not abandoned us, but stands before us in a way we are not used to.
Mary Magdellan attempted to reach out to the Risen Lord, but He told her not to “cling to Him”. Why? Was it social distancing? No. Maybe we are now asked to stand back a bit, to see Christ from a new perspective, bigger, greater and more glorious, never confined or a prisoner within the constraints of our own muscle-memory. The Risen Christ now walks our streets, enters our homes, visits our neighborhoods and one by one, calls each of us by name, assuring us that He has won every battle. Listen out for His voice.
But even still, even on that first day of Easter, only a few would truly hear Him and believe in Christ’s victory. Easter, therefore, can never be just one day. It is forty days. Forty days for Christ to ready us, one by one, to stand on our own two feet and then, when the time is right, to come together in public to celebrate Him as Lord of Heaven and Earth.
May this Easter Sunday mark, once again, the beginning of the Risen Lord’s ministry to strengthen each of us one by one so that, come Pentecost, we will find ourselves gathered again together in one place in the company of Mary, Mother of the Church.
Know that I have offered the Easter Vigil Mass for you. And I pray, that the Presence and power of the Resurrected Christ through the Holy Eucharist celebrated at the Altar will radiate outwards towards you and your loved ones both near and far wherever you may be.
Father Cávana Wallace
The homily comes first, by way of introduction, in this particular setting. For it is a unique time we are living in. Not just here at St. Margaret’s in Oceanside, California, but wherever you are, our lives have been turned upside down and inside out.
To the parishioners, who would sit in the pews of this church, your absence, of course is noted. But I know well of your prayers for, and support of this, your parish community. For that I am grateful and we miss you.
To families and friends who would usually meet and enjoy fellowship after church on Sundays, the piazza is now very quiet, but hopefully, not for too long.
To those who serve locally in the military, or who are now stationed far from us or even overseas, to you and your loved ones, know that you will always be a strong backbone of our family here.
To those who are sick, at home or in special care, the value of your sacrifices can never be taken for granted. You have our prayers and support.
To those who work in the medical field, law enforcement, social and essential services, know of our appreciation of the long hours you must now endure for our sake and those who depend on you. Thank you.
To those who can not get to work, or who find themselves without work, or not able to travel outside or who now feel the pressure of being housebound, know that we all, in various ways, are challenged by uncertainties and fears that at times stretch our patience, but we must not lose it. After the storm has lifted, many will still depend on you, as do we.
For those who would have received their first sacraments tonight, please know that we all, more than ever before, share in your deep longing to be renewed by the fresh waters of baptism, the warm fire of the Holy Spirit and sacred nourishment of Holy Communion. We all hunger like you.
To everyone who has ever crossed our threshold, from near or far, or who might be glimpsing into this church, maybe for the first time, know that there is always a place and a prayer for you here.
The church is big enough for everyone and we pray that once the darkness has lifted, the journey home will bring us again, in time, to gather around the Altar of the Lord.
That, dear friends, is what we anticipate.
But in the meantime, gathered here are your representatives. They will be, for now, your eyes and ears, your voice and your prayer.
Assisted by our deacon and server, I will place your prayers, your lives and your hopes upon the altar, and lift them up into the one eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ - for he is our prayer, our life and our hope- for a new beginning, a new creation to renew the face of the earth.
But towards this goal, we must first travel through darkness and not be afraid, for that is where new life always emerges from. But someone we can trust, has already taken this journey to hell and back. That one person has done so, for all humanity, and his light must shine, to lead us out of every dark place of fear, sin, despair and even death itself. He is Jesus Christ, our savior, the embodiment of God with us.
In a simplified form, through a selection of passages from Holy Scripture, we will retrace his journey, anticipated from the very beginning of creation and through the story and songs of the Chosen People. We recall his life, his death, but most importantly his resurrection from the dead, the source of our hope and the promise that God’s light, shining through Jesus Christ, will in time, conquer all darkness in whatever form, visible or invisible, it dares to take.
In this most sacred ritual, every word spoken, every gesture made, the sights, the sounds, the songs and the prayers we make, now communicate to the world, that God stands with us in the darkness, as a light of hope for all humanity.
May the light of Christ rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.
Apr 9, 2020
Tonight all Christians begin our sacred anticipation of Easter. As Christ did, He longed to celebrate the Passover meal with His disciples. But when He made arrangements for the Last Supper on that first Holy Thursday night, it was not to be a public event. Instead, it took place behind the scenes. He invited only a small number of chosen disciples to that sacred gathering behind closed doors - no families, no passersby, not even the sick or any of the public entered the Upper Room. What happened, happened out of sight from crowds. Even if it existed at that time, there would be no live-streaming, or photographs to capture that most holy, intimate and sacred meal that we would recognize today as the Holy Mass.
What we today often consider a right to attend, began as a closed event - by invitation only. For many, today, as no doubt back then, each family who had been touched by the healing presence of Christ during His public ministry, retreated to their own household and gathered their own family and friends around them, remembering in prayer, all the good work God has done for us in ages past. Today, we too must do likewise and so must I.
During that first Holy Thursday evening of the Lord’s Supper, Christ had already chosen twelve men He wanted to be with. After preparing them in public as they travelled with Him and witnessed His ministry among the people, now in secret, He ordained them into His own priesthood, asking them, when the time was right, to do for others what He was about to do for them and all humanity - to take bread and wine and point it towards the sacrifice of His Cross and the power of His resurrection from the dead. Doing so, this food and drink would be transubstantiated into His Risen and Glorious Body and Blood. This way, Christ demonstrates that He is the Lord of Heaven and Earth, of all who hunger and thirst for salvation.
Pray tonight in particular for all those ordained into Christ’s Priesthood, that even as we return, in a way, to the seclusion of the “Upper Room”, we priests will always be faithful to Our Lord’s command to continue what He initiated at the Last Supper. Pray for me and all my priestly brothers, that during these days of retreat from the public gaze that when we offer the sacrifice of the Mass as fellow priests of Christ, our lives will be more and more attuned to that first secret and sacred gathering in the company of our Good Shepherd who put His life into our hands.
Apr 3, 2020
Throughout our history, every year on Palm Sunday we gathered in mass in the piazza outside the church. We all held palms and listened to the Gospel announcing that Christ our King was at the city gates, ready to enter. I went among you showering down holy water, blessing the palms you held, so that they would become a visible reminder of the Christian joy of following in behind Christ the Shepherd who leads His flock to victory. Accompanied by our deacon and ministers around the altar, we would then enter the historical drama of the Gospel as it recounted the events about to unfold leading up to Good Friday and the sacrificial death of Christ. This year, our song of “Hosanna, Hosanna” seems like a distant echo from years past.
Whether you stop by the church on Sunday to pick up a fresh and blessed palm, make some time within the church in adoration of the Eucharistic Presence of Christ at His altar, or find yourself at home in prayer making Sunday sacred, know that I will have offered Mass for you and your intentions. I only ask that you make your own little sacrifices to God in thanksgiving for the graces He still continues to shower on us and also in petition that He will protect, heal and guide our community during these uncertain and tense days and weeks ahead.
It is worth recalling from Scripture, from St. Luke’s gospel account, that as our Blessed Lord approached the city amid the joyful excitement of the people gathered to welcome Him, before going forward, Christ stood back. From a distance as He looked over the city before Him, Christ wept. God weeps for our city, for our nation.
St. Matthew’s gospel account reminds us that the first thing that Our Lord did when He entered the city was to heal the blind and the crippled. As soon as He did so, the religious leaders forced Him to leave. We also must allow Christ to work through us to bring healing and hope to those who are blinded by fear or isolated in loneliness.
But Christ does not give up on us. The following morning, this time without the fanfare of the crowds or festivities, Our Lord pushes His way into the temple grounds and with all His bodily strength and emotion causes havoc to the money changers and marketeers who had dared to make financial capital out of spiritual hunger. Surely this is a stark reminder to us, that even though our economy at this time is taking a hit, we can never allow it to be a false god to replace our dependence on the true God who does not rise and fall continuously, but through Christ has risen from the dead, never to die again. He alone is the cause of our hope.
As we enter into Palm Sunday, the gateway to the holiest week in our Christian calendar and a crucial one in our nation’s history, join me and support each other in prayer for those who are hidden away in illness or in fear. Pray for the souls of those who have died, and for their families and loved ones. Pray for those in the medical field who put themselves in harm’s way to bring healing. Pray for those who serve us in the stores and delivery services. Pray for those in uniform who protect and serve us. Pray for those in leadership, our public servants, that they will always foresee the common good. Pray for your pastor and deacon that we may become more perfectly attuned to Christ the Priest, Christ the Servant. Pray for the salvation of your soul and that God will renew the face of the earth to reflect His glory and His love which endures forever.
Father Cávana Wallace
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