I'll begin by relaying some information Bishop Thomas sent to all pastors and parishes. The first piece of information is that the dispensation from the obligation to Sunday Mass and Holy Days of Obligation continues until further notice, meaning there is no obligation to go to Mass at this time. If you are concerned about being around others, I recommend attending Mass during the week, when crowds are much smaller; allow our Lord to feed you in Sacrament and in Word. The other piece of information is that Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are now permitted to take the Blessed Sacrament to the sick and homebound. There are certain guidelines and procedures they should follow, and they will be informed of what needs to be done.
I have a piece of good news as well. After months of searching and interviews, we have hired Mary Young to be our new youth minister. She will begin on August 31 and will hit the ground running. More information about her will be provided soon, but we are very excited to work with her!
Last week, I began discussion about the Our Father, also known as the Lord's Prayer, as I continue to discuss prayer in my homilies and in this bulletin column. I first want to share these two quotations from Pope Benedict XVI regarding prayer, especially as we pray to our Father: “The gift of God is God himself. The 'good things' that he give us are himself. This reveals in a surprising way what prayer is really about: It is not about this or that, but about God's desire to offer us the gift of himself.” He also says, “Prayer is a way of gradually purifying and correcting our wishes and of slowly coming to realize what we really need: God and his Spirit.”
Specifically now, we look at the first two words of the Lord's Prayer: Our Father. We begin by praying “our” and not “my” Father. None of us has a singular possession of God. Additionally, God has not selected only a single individual to enter into His new and eternal covenant through Jesus Christ. Through that new and eternal covenant brought about through Christ's Passion, Death, and Resurrection, we have become His people, and He is our God, and therefore, we belong to each other. Again, Pope Benedict XVI illuminates this for us: “Only within the 'we' of the disciples can we call God 'Father,' because only through communion with Jesus Christ do we truly become 'children of God.' In this sense, the word our is really rather demanding. It requires that we step out of the closed circle of our 'I.' It requires that we surrender ourselves to communion with the other children of God.”
Additionally, we call God “Father.” We can dare to do this because He is revealed to us by His Son as Father and because His Spirit makes Him known to us as Father. With this, we have been adopted as His children. By baptism, God incorporates us into the Body of Christ and through the anointing of His Spirit, He makes us other “Christs.” Because God is our Father, what follows is that we should strive to develop two fundamental dispositions. The first is a humble and trusting heart, which enables us to turn and become like children. The second disposition is the desire to become like God. St. Cyprian said, “We must remember...and know that when we call God 'our Father; we ought to behave as sons and daughters of God.” St. John Chrysostom said, “You cannot call the God of all kindness your Father if you preserve a cruel and inhuman heart; for in this case you no longer have in you the marks of the heavenly Father's kindness.” As we pray to God our Father, we must seek to become more like Him.
We are saints under construction, so let us grow in holiness by living as sons and daughters of God, seeking to be more like Him. Have a great week!