March 16: A Message from Fr. Jim
On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
“Let us cross to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up,
rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?”
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” (Mark 4:35-41)
My dear friends in Christ,
The passage above is the one I preached on at my Mass of Thanksgiving after my ordination nearly 29 years ago. It remains one of my favorite scriptures. A violent storm shakes the boat. The waves are breaking over the boat and the disciples are afraid for their lives. And Jesus… is asleep! After they wake him, Jesus question to them always brings a smile to my face: “Why are you terrified?” I imagine the disciples thinking, “Why do you think? We are drowning and you’re sleeping like nothing is wrong!” By Jesus’ word, peace is restored to the sea and to the hearts of the disciples. In the midst of their panic, the disciples lost sight of the fact that Jesus had it all in hand. “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
Yesterday was the strangest Sunday I have experienced since becoming a priest. The church, normally filled with the sounds of beautiful music, children’s laughter and the warmth of community, was eerily silent. In times of crisis, we more acutely feel our need for God and for the support of the Christian community. Not being able to celebrate the Eucharist together is a loss we feel intensely. I miss it terribly already. “Jesus, the boat is taking on water. We’re afraid. Where are you?”
There is no question that we are experiencing a serious public health crisis and must rigorously follow official directives and best practices guidance in order to limit further transmission of the virus. At the same time, we need to take care of our spiritual health. Let’s remember that Jesus is with us and never abandons us. Let’s invite him in to calm our fears. In this time of separation, let us be united in prayer for each other. Our Collaborative Service Commission is working on ways to support the most vulnerable among us during this time. I have no doubt that the parishioners of St. John- St. Paul Collaborative will continue to be the face of Christ. I have no doubt, that even in this time of crisis and isolation you’ll still regard Jesus’ command of love of God, and love of neighbor as the model for every choice you make. And I have no doubt that our prayers are being heard and answered in ways we can not yet see.
Both churches will be open each day for private prayer. Please visit the website frequently for the current hours and for ongoing updates, and to visit our newly established Pastoral Blog “Peace in Uncertainty”, for daily reflections, musical selections and inspirations.
In uncertain times, let us place our trust in the one who is “the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Yours in Christ,