My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is risen! Alleluia! These joyful words may seem oddly placed for many as the world seems to be held by the pandemic in a more lenten period of sacrifice, trial and difficulty. People throughout the Diocese, the country, and the entire world are going through tremendous hardships. Families struggle with finances. Others are challenged with health concerns from the ongoing pandemic. And the spiritual needs of the faithful, through the Sacraments, has only recently been made available. Amidst all this adversity, we do not forget that Christ has risen! He has overcome the world! He is victorious! Christ sends us the promise of Himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, during the upcoming Pentecost Sunday.
Allow yourself to be placed in the upper room with the Disciples of Jesus Christ and the Mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Imagine the uncertainty and even fear that they may have had. In this time of uncertainty in your life, how might you live as “A Disciple of Christ?”
We recall a similar feeling in the Upper Room before the Resurrection of Jesus. In the middle of the night, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, filled with a great sorrow and the feelings of missing Jesus dearly. Many of us can relate to this now, not being able to see our Lord and receive Him in the Eucharist. IIt is precisely here, in this desire of Mary to be with our Lord, that He appears to her. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” (Jn 20:15), Jesus asks Mary, who does not recognize Him.“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni’” (Jn 20:16).
For many of us, Jesus is revealing Himself in a new way during this time of COVID-19. We might not recognize Him, just as Mary did not outside the tomb, possibly due to fear and anxiety. It is when Jesus calls her by name that she knows who He is.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine,” (Is 43:1) the Lord says to you and to me. How are you listening for Jesus’ Words today? Are you listening to Him calling you by name, calling you to be, in a new and deeper way this Pentecost, “A Disciple of Christ?”
Like St. Mary Magdalene, Jesus hears your prayers and sees the desire of your heart to know Him. It is truly a joy that the public celebration of the Mass has resumed, and many are able to return to the Sacraments. The Lord is waiting to encounter you.
Although businesses are slowly opening again and the Churches of the Diocese of Venice are open, there remains a level of uncertainty and caution. Even after the Resurrection, the Disciples had to endure great difficulties. When Jesus has ascended to heaven, the Disciples remained in the Upper Room for 10 days in fear for their lives. In this time, the words of Jesus remained in their hearts. “For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn 16:7).
As the Church will move from Pentecost into Ordinary Time, we wait to see how the Lord will continue to get us through the Pandemic. Let us do so like the Disciples, “devoted […] with one accord to prayer (Acts 1:14). Trusting that the Lord will “work all things to good” (cf. Rom 8:28).
Do not forget that on Pentecost the Lord has sent us the Holy Spirit who is our Advocate, Comforter, Sanctifier, and Counselor. Ask the Spirit daily for help to live as “A Disciple of Christ,” for He will “teach you everything and remind you of all that (Christ) told you” (Jn 14:17) and “helps us in our weakness” (Rom 8:26).
Pentecost leads the Church into Ordinary Time. This is precisely because “God declares that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17) and all are given the call to “preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). Pentecost is followed by Ordinary Time because the normal life of the Church is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and we are to live as “A Disciple of Christ.”
This still may take some ingenuity and effort due to the ongoing Pandemic, but do not give up hope! Christ sees your efforts to know Him and love Him and He will bless you for them. Present restrictions in our society provide help to many people but create a need for others, and with this there are many opportunities for you to love your neighbor.
Strive to come to know the Lord in a new way at this time! Pick up your phone to be present to those you have not spoken with in a while. Take these opportunities to pray with one another and build each other up in the faith. Go to the Church, keeping with social distancing guidelines and wearing a mask, so as to allow your taking advantage of Mass and Confessions being offered. Use this extra time for spiritual reading and even pick up your Bible that maybe has not been open in a long time. Through these and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, you can be ever more “A Disciple of Christ.”
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (Jn 14:27). This is a time of great trial and difficulty, but do not give up hope! The Lord will calm the storm (cf. Mk 4:39). “The Lord will fight for you; you have only to keep still” (Ex 14:14). Allow the Lord into your heart in a new way, a way that you might not recognize just yet, but allow yourself to hear Him when He calls you by name, as He calls you to greater be “A Disciple of Christ.”
May God bless you and your family on this Pentecost! Know of my continual prayers for you, especially as the Mass is offered daily for your good. Please keep me in your prayers as well.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+ Bishop Frank J. Dewane
Diocese of Venice in Florida