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Monthly Archives: April 2020

Anuncio de obispos de Oklahoma sobre plan para misas públicas

29 de abril de 2020
Fiesta de Santa Catalina de Siena

Queridos hermanos y hermanas en Cristo, paz y alegría para cada uno de ustedes en esta época Pascual. Aunque en muchos sentidos parece que la larga Cuaresma de 2020 continúa, hoy es miércoles de la Tercera Semana de Pascua. ¡Cristo ha resucitado! ¡Él ha resucitado! ¡Aleluya!

En las últimas semanas, mientras muchos habitantes de Oklahoma se han adaptado a una nueva forma de vida, aunque sea de modo temporal, nos hemos unido de manera creativa para mantenernos conectados entre nosotros y participar en la celebración de la Misa. A través de estas pruebas hemos llegado a reconocer de forma más clara cómo Dios ha estado con nosotros a través de todo esto. Para los fieles laicos, el mayor sacrificio ha sido el ayuno del Cuerpo y la Sangre de Cristo en la Sagrada Eucaristía. Le pedimos a Dios que durante este tiempo de ayuno, Dios los haya honrado con una profunda hambre por la comunión con Jesús el Camino, la Verdad y la Vida.

Como sus pastores, hemos estado en contacto con los líderes de los gobiernos estatales y locales y las autoridades de la salud pública. Para evaluar cuándo y cómo podríamos comenzar el proceso de ofrecer Misa pública y, más ampliamente, reanudar la vida sacramental normal de la Iglesia.

Hemos establecido un equipo conjunto de trabajo de la Arquidiócesis de Oklahoma City y la Diócesis de Tulsa para explorar la línea de tiempo y los procedimientos para la reanudación de la celebración pública de la Misa en Oklahoma. El equipo de trabajo está formado por sacerdotes y laicos de ambas diócesis en consulta con profesionales médicos locales, incluyendo un especialista líder en enfermedades infecciosas.

El 6 de mayo, anunciaremos un cronograma sobre cómo comenzaremos a ofrecer misas públicas en Oklahoma y proporcionaremos una lista detallada de procedimientos y precauciones para parroquias. Mientras tanto, la dispensa de asistir a la Misa dominical permanecerá en su lugar.

Gracias por su fidelidad, generosidad, sacrificio y paciencia mientras hacemos nuestra parte para frenar la propagación de COVID-19 y mantener a nuestras familias y a los más vulnerables a salvo.

¡Beato Stanley Rother y Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, oren por nosotros!

Sinceramente suyos en Christo,

Reverendísimo Pablo S. Coakley
Arquidiócesis de Oklahoma City

Reverendísimo David A. Konderla
Diócesis de Tulsa

Oklahoma bishops’ announcement on plan to begin public Masses

April 29, 2020

The Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Peace and joy to each of you this Easter season. Although in many ways it feels like the long Lent of 2020 continues, it is now Wednesday in the third week of Easter. Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Over the past few weeks as many Oklahomans have adjusted to a new, albeit temporary, way of life, we have come together in creative ways to stay connected with one another and participate in the celebration of the Mass. Through these trials we will come to recognize more clearly how God has been with us through it all. For the lay faithful, the greatest sacrifice has been fasting from Christ’s Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist. We pray that in this time of fasting, God has graced you with a profound hunger for this communion with Jesus the Way, the Truth and the Life.

As your shepherds, we have been in contact with state and local government leaders and public health authorities to assess when and how we could begin the process of offering public Mass and, more broadly, resuming the normal sacramental life of the Church. We have established a joint task force with the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa to explore the timeline and procedures for resumption of public Mass in Oklahoma. The task force consists of priests and laity in both dioceses in consultation with local medical professionals, including a leading infectious disease specialist.

On May 6, we will announce a timeline for how we will begin offering public Masses in Oklahoma and provide a detailed list of procedures and precautions for parishes. The dispensation from attending Sunday Mass will remain in place.

Thank you for your faithfulness, generosity, sacrifice and patience as we do our part slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our families and most vulnerable safe.

Blessed Stanley Rother and Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Paul S. Coakley
Archbishop of Oklahoma City

Most Reverend David A. Konderla
Bishop of Tulsa

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)

April 20, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


When Jesus, risen from the dead, appears to his followers, they do not recognize him at first. The accounts of his resurrection appearances found in all 4 Gospels have this in common—when he appears, his disciples do not recognize Jesus initially.

So, in that locked upper room the Risen Jesus proves to his stunned followers that it is really him by showing them his wounds. This is also the proof Thomas looks for—he will believe when he sees the wounds.

The friends of Jesus do not recognize him at first in his risen body until he says something or does something which connects this “new” person with the Jesus of Nazareth they had known and loved. Why is this so? Why is Jesus, risen from the dead, not recognized by those closest to him?

Because he is living a new life, a resurrected life—he is a new person. Many people think of resurrection in terms of resuscitation, like Lazarus being resuscitated from the tomb and given his old life back. That is not what happened in the resurrection of Jesus. He is radically changed by the experience of his suffering, death, and resurrection.

The Risen Lord Jesus does not start his old life over where he left off before his death on the cross. Rather, he is living a new life, reflected in a new, glorified, resurrected body. Even though his glorified body still carries the wounds of his suffering and death, this new Risen body of Jesus is different from his old earthly body,

The Risen Lord Jesus still comes into places where people are locked away in fear to share His Risen Life, to breathe upon his followers the breath of new life. Risen life, resurrected life by its nature cannot be contained—it has to be shared. That’s what the Risen Lord is still doing today, sharing His risen life with us during this Easter Season. He comes to us, locked away in our homes, fearful of catching the virus or spreading it.

The first gift of Risen Life is Peace—a peace flowing from the wounds of the Risen Lord into our lives and into the world. He says to each of us today, “Peace be with you”. This gift of His peace flows into our anxious minds and fearful hearts, into our bodies weighed down by worry,

We live out of this peace, from this “deep knowing” of faith, which sustains our hope even in difficult times, because we know the Risen Lord by the power of His Spirit walks by our side. He has not abandoned us, nor will He ever do so. We breathe deeply of His life-giving Spirit, the Spirit which dwells within us by baptism, and enter ever deeper into the new life the Risen Jesus offers us.

As we encounter the Risen Lord in his life-giving word today, we are invited to walk into this new life, to live in a new way, in a “resurrected” way. Many people long to return to life as they knew it before the coronavirus pressed a huge “Pause Button” on life. Many want to go back to their “normal” life.

But the Risen Jesus invites us into something more than life as it was, something more than our old life. He is inviting us into a new life with Him today, to leave behind our old way of living. Will we respond to this invitation of the Risen Lord to new life with him?

Some believers have already entered into this new way of living, which they hope to carry over after this crisis comes to an end. As they have left behind their old life with its manic busyness, they have discovered truths which they want to hold onto and live from.

During this time of sheltering at home, some have begun a new life of prayer or strengthened their former life of prayer. This crisis has forced them to recognize that the most important relationship in their life is with the Risen Lord, so they have entered more regularly into solitude and into silence, listening to Him like never before. During this time, others have discovered resurrected life by reconnecting with loved ones, reaching out to neighbors, or extending themselves in service of strangers. They have rediscovered that the way God made us is to be connected to others. For the truth is that we are interconnected, that what we choose to do or not do impacts the lives of others for good or for ill.

The Risen Lord, speaking to us in a new way in prayer and through our desire to connect with others, also invites us to examine our attachments to material things. During this time, many have discovered what is essential and what is not essential. We do not need to keep consuming more and more material things in order to live meaningful lives.

Like the apostles filled with the new life the Risen Lord breathed into them, we have a deeper desire to share our material belongings, even our hard-earned cash, with those who are in need. Entering into this new life with the Risen Lord, our eyes have been opened to see how much inequality there is in our nation and in our world. This pandemic has brought to light this harsh truth— a small percentage of people in our nation and world have too much of the world’s resources and many people have so little.

Access to health care is but one example of this harsh truth. Those who do not have health insurance have become sicker over the years and more prone to die from the coronavirus. They are also more likely not to seek out health care if they do catch this dreaded disease because they cannot pay for it.

Minimum wage workers in our country who work in grocery stores, nursing homes, and meat packing plants put their lives at risk, because to cease working means no food for their families and possible eviction from their homes.

New life with the Risen Lord means desiring to share this life with those in need and to correct the glaring inequalities in our world, to work for justice for all.

Joined to the Risen Christ, we are raised above our previous way of life. As we move with the Lord from death to new life, we die to self-preservation and rise up to self-giving love. We move from the city where the love of self closes itself off to God to a new city where love gives of itself and thereby finds God. (cf Augustine, “City of God”)

Raised up to new life in Him and with Him, Christians bring this Good News, the Gospel of Christ, into the world and raise up humankind to their highest dignity: to be children of God.

The Risen Lord Jesus is knocking from inside the doors of the Church, desiring to go out into the world. He desires to go out into the world through the lives of Christians who carry his self-sacrificing love into the world.

For the way to live a resurrected life in the here and now is by dying to self with Him and giving our lives away in loving service to others.

Homily for Easter Sunday

April 12, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


On this Easter morning we find ourselves in the same boat as Mary Magdalene. Our world has been turned upside down. We are lost and afraid. We mourn our “old” life, the life we had before the many losses the coronavirus ushered into our world. With Mary, we come with darkness surrounding us, to the place of death. There is no expectation of anything new, only more of the same: sorrow and loss. With her, we feel empty—joy has fled our lives and peace with it.

At first glance, the Easter Gospel which the Church gives us seems to do nothing to alleviate our sorrow, nothing to take away our emptiness.

John’s Gospel for today is empty of the reassurances of the other Gospels that Christ is Risen. There is only an empty tomb with a few burial cloths. There are no angels dressed in dazzling white announcing, “He is Risen.” There are no encounters with the Risen Lord, at least not yet. All that greets Peter and the other disciple when they finish their race to the tomb is emptiness. The body of their crucified friend is gone.

The absence of angelic promises, the absence of the Risen Lord, is what many Catholics are feeling right now. Where is the Lord Jesus in all that is going on in our world? Emptiness is what many are feeling, an emptiness matching the emptiness of his tomb. Many Catholics feel the pain of this emptiness in the depths of their spirit, because they have not received the Eucharist for days seemingly without end.

Part of the challenge of faith at this time is to plunge deeper into the Word of God, where the Lord feeds and nourishes us. Remember, those first disciples only came to understand the Resurrection as they came to understand the Scriptures that he had to rise from the dead. What we begin to understand as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures and allow them to illumine our life, is that Resurrection is not a one-time event, but an ongoing reality. Resurrection is what God does, over and over again.

In the Old Testament, over and over again God raised his fallen people, the People of Israel, to new life. He raised them up from slavery to freedom, from exile to homecoming, from their sinful ways to reconciliation with Him. God did the same with many individuals in the Old Testament, who faced what they thought was the end of their life as they knew it only to be granted new life by God: Abraham and Sarah, Moses and David, Esther and Judith.

The story continues in the New Testament, with Peter dead in his sorrow over his denial of Jesus, life as he knew it seemingly over, being raised to new life by the Risen Lord, so Peter can proclaim this Truth to others.

If we look back on our lives with the eyes of faith, we will see how the Lord has raised us up from this or that loss into a new life. With the eyes of faith, we can see how the Lord has written resurrection into our story. We are able to see and believe.

The Saints show us how to see and believe, how to entrust our lives to the one who is the Lord of life and death. When Fr. Rother was asked by the religious sisters at his parish a week before his death, what do we tell the people when they come and kill you, he answered: “Go into the church and light the Easter candle and sing the Easter Alleluia.”

Yes, indeed, Christ is Risen, and he raises up to new life all who believe in Him. For Christ is Risen, and we will rise up with him—nothing can kill this saving Truth.

The emptiness of this church feels like the emptiness of the tomb on Easter morn. Where is the Lord? Where is his Body? Without the living Body of Christ gathered together to become more fully who they are, to enter more deeply into Communion with each other and with the Risen Lord, this place yawns with emptiness.

But this emptiness is a prelude to the new life the Risen Lord brings from death. Like the emptiness of the soil receiving the seed which will produce new life, so the seeds of the resurrection are planted within us this Easter, the seeds of new life which cannot be killed. Because with God, life never dies—it only becomes fuller and richer and more meaningful.

For the Risen Lord is calling all of us to faith during these difficult days. A faith which is not so much believing that the Lord Jesus exists, but instead going to Jesus and entrusting our lives to Him, knowing that he cares about us.

This time of trial is forcing us to choose what matters and what passes away; a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is time to get our lives back on track with regard to our relationship with the Risen Lord and with others.

There will be a new church building and a new beginning for the people of our parish after this time of isolation has ended. For to those who walk in the light of the Risen Christ, every ending brings with it a new beginning, Every death leads to new life.

During this time when so many have experienced the loss of so many things, we are invited to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. Let us listen once again to the proclamation that saves us: “Christ is risen and living by our side.”

The Risen Lord by the power of the Spirit of Love which he shares with His Father can and will turn to good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. With him, we rise up from despair to hope again; In him, we rise up from the darkness of doubt to the light of faith; Through him, we rise up from our tombs of fear to trust and love again.

He is calling us from death to new life today. Because as believers know, with God, life never dies!

Homily for Good Friday

April 10, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Our separation from God is over. The Son of God by his death on the cross has reconciled the world to himself. Christ Jesus has undone the sin of Adam, has washed away our sins in his blood, and by his death given us new life and united us to His Father. By the power of the cross, our separation from God is over.

But in the 21st century where we have so many ways to connect to each other, why is it that so many feel isolated from God and others? Especially at this time when we “shelter in place,” we can feel cut off from God and others.

In this new age of coronavirus, we have been encouraged to keep our distance from one another to slow the spread of the virus. However, “social distancing” is not the best term for this action, because more than ever before we long for and desperately need social connection. It would be better to practice “physical distancing,” while reaching out to others and connecting to them socially.

We are created by God for connection with God and others, for union with God and others. We are made to reach out to others, to seek communion with them.

Catholics long for Holy Communion—the Sacrament— but also long for what the celebration of the Eucharist brings— communion with the other members of the Body of Christ. Praying together with others is part of our DNA— we are made to be with others in worship.

At this time when we are not able to come together in worship, we are united with each other in this common suffering. In fact, suffering of any kind unites us, even when we are physically separated from each other. The Son of God was not spared the very human experience of suffering. All of us who are flesh and blood encounter the mystery of suffering. No one escapes suffering, even though some try to escape it through the various “sedatives” of today’s world.

The question is: what will we do with the suffering that is ours? Will we embrace it or try to escape it? Jesus, the Suffering Servant of God, shows us a way forward.

Because of Jesus’ free embrace of the cross and the suffering which flowed from his acceptance of his cross, Jesus has changed suffering to glory and death to life. Also, because of the cross, the suffering of those who love the Crucified One becomes a Communion between them. Those who are marked by the cross in baptism are joined to each other in the suffering they freely embrace because of their love for the Crucified Lord.

This is what I would call the “Communion of saints” with that word, “saints”, beginning with a small “s.” We are never alone in our suffering, for we are joined to our brothers and sisters in the Lord in their suffering. As we take our pain and our struggles to Christ on the cross, we are assured that we do not go there alone but are joining others at the foot of the cross.

Acceptance of pain can become our gift to each other in Christ. Acceptance of our fear of death and even embracing death itself in trust becomes our gift to others in Christ. Embracing the hardships of this particular time is our gift of Christ’s love to one another; our gift of Christ’s life to one another.

As we recognize that in our suffering we are united to the glorified body of Christ, all those holy women and men who have gone before us in faith, we enter into the “Communion of Saints” with a large “S.” People of faith never ever suffer alone, even though it may feel that way at times, for we are not only joined in our suffering to the suffering Body of Christ on this earth but also to his Glorified body in heaven.

As we become filled with anxiety over this modern-day plague, let us invite St. Aloysius Gonzaga to walk with us, to help us carry our cross. St. Aloysius took care of those dying of the plague in Rome at the end of the 16th century, and eventually died of the plague himself at 24. As we worry about our health, St. Therese of Liseux walks with us. She contracted tuberculosis at a young age and suffered greatly because of it, dying at the end of the 19th century at the age of 24. She, too, helps us carry our cross at this time.

As we take our suffering to Christ on the cross, he receives our cross in order to give us his cross. We give him our pain and sorrow and struggles in order that we might receive his cross.

For his cross is like a rudder, steering the ship of our life through stormy waters, assuring us that we are redeemed. His cross is an anchor, for as the huge waves of fear and uncertainty seem to tip the boat of our life, we are firmly rooted in the conviction that we are saved. We have nothing to fear. The cross of Christ is our greatest hope and the very source of our joy, for by it we have been healed and embraced by Him who reminds us that nothing and no one can separate us from his love. So, Christ from the cross invites us to be courageous and open ourselves up to his love. We are all in this boat together and the captain of the ship will steer us through this stormy time.

By receiving the Lord’s cross, by adoring the wood on which hung the salvation of the world, we receive our Savior. He gives us his hands to take firm hold of his saving cross; his power to make it a source of blessing; his life to cause it to flower; and his heart to enable us to accept with love our burdens and the burdens of others.

Homily for Holy Thursday

April 9, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Tonight is not a typical celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. Catholics in Mustang, throughout Oklahoma, across the United States and the world are not able to partake in the Holy Eucharist. On the very night when we celebrate the institution by Jesus of the Eucharist, Catholics whose faith is strengthened and sustained by such a great gift are not able to receive it.

But since this evening’s celebration is unlike any other Holy Thursday celebration in our lifetime, perhaps we can broaden our understanding of this rich mystery of the Eucharist. John the evangelist invites us to a more complete understanding of what the Lord Jesus is asking us to do to remember him.

Every year at this celebration the Church in her wisdom gifts us with this account from the Gospel of John. However, what is missing is what we normally think of when we think of the Eucharist—the Sacred Meal. Rather, John takes a different approach to lead us into a deeper understanding of the Eucharist. What disciples are to do in memory of Jesus is to wash feet. In other words, disciples are to remember Jesus’ life-giving gift of himself on the cross by giving their lives away in loving service of others. By doing so, we are nourished by the presence of the Lord in those we serve, and we become his life-giving presence for them to feast on as we give ourselves away in love for them.

Christ Jesus, the Servant of Humankind, the One who comes not to be served but to serve and to give his life away as a ransom for many, teaches us that whenever we do the same in memory of Him, he feeds us, he nourishes us. So, as our bodies are broken open in generous love of others, as our blood is poured out in our service of others, we are filled with new life–His life.

In his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Francis noted that the coronavirus tragedy helps us “to rediscover that life is of no use if not used to serve others.” The Pope challenges us to “reach out to those suffering and in need” and states: “May we not be concerned with what we lack, but what good we can do for others.”

The Pope points out that the real heroes today are not “famous, rich and successful people” but rather “medical staff, nursing home caregivers, transport workers, supermarket clerks and others for their sacrifice to help lives.” Yes, the real heroes are not sport stars or movie stars or music stars but ordinary folks who are serving others in simple yet extraordinary ways.

Some medical staff are living apart from their families at the very time they need that support the most in order to protect their loved ones from the virus. EMT’s who face unpredictable situations, phlebotomists who draw blood for testing, and those who run the tests–all giving of themselves to others. Then there are those public servants who patrol our streets to keep us safe and others who are ready at a moment’s notice to extinguish a fire or to rush into an emergency situation. The Body of Christ serving the Body of Christ.

There are those who stock the shelves at grocery stores and those who serve in the checkout line. There are those whose jobs are essential but who go unseen, far from the public eye: cleaning ladies who by the very nature of their job risk coming into contact with the coronavirus; and electrical workers who keep power flowing for our many devices, those who oversee our water plants so we can have clean water at a moment’s notice; and those long-haul truckers who drive cross country to deliver much needed goods The Body of Christ serving the Body of Christ.

All of these and many others teach us that our lives find meaning when we serve others. All of these and many others show us that if we really want to feel connected to others then we need to share our gifts in service of their needs.

Thus, the Eucharist is more verb than noun, more an action than an object: the action of receiving Christ and then giving our lives away in love with Jesus Christ to Him living in others. A living and true relationship with Jesus takes us beyond a “me and Jesus” spiritual world to a concrete relationship with Him in his suffering body all around us.

We cannot adore Him worthily in the Blessed Sacrament if we do not see Him and serve Him in others, especially those suffering in any way. We hear the Lord Jesus crying out from the cross as we hear Him crying out in the least of our sisters and brothers who are suffering and feel all alone.

One spiritual author speaks about this central truth of the Eucharist and of our Eucharistic faith, as revealed by Jesus’ action in John’s Last Supper account.

Here, Jesus is taking the place of a person at the bottom, the last place, the place of a slave. For Peter this is impossible. Little does he realize that Jesus came to transform the model of society, from a pyramid to a body, where each and every person has a place, whatever their abilities or disabilities, where each one is dependent upon the other. Each is called to fulfill a mission in the body of humanity and of the Church. There is no “last place.” Jesus, revealing himself as the least one in society, the one who does the dirty jobs, the one who is the last place, calls his followers to be attentive to the least in society. God is not out of reach, in the skies. God is hidden in the “heavens” of the hearts of all those who are in the last place.

The Eucharist is not something we receive but someone we receive. At every celebration of the Eucharist we become what we receive—the Body of Christ. At the Eucharist, we do not come to take something but to become Someone— to become other Christ’s in this world by allowing his life to take root and grow in us. The Eucharist is not a thing but a person, the very person of the Crucified One now Risen, who shares his life with us, so that we might share his life and love with others.

Arzobispo suspende Misas públicas hasta nuevo aviso

April 8, 2020

A los fieles de la Arquidiócesis de Oklahoma City,

Sigo orando por ustedes y por todos los fieles mientras trabajamos para adaptarnos a nuestra nueva normalidad durante las próximas semanas. Gracias a todos los que han continuado ofreciendo Misas privadas, los que celebran Misa y ofrecen oraciones en línea, y todos los que se han mantenido conectados de muchas otras maneras. La presencia de nuestra fe ha levantado los espíritus, ofrecido esperanza y hecho que este tiempo esté más lleno de fe.

En marzo, emití una directiva suspendiendo Misas públicas hasta después del 16 de abril.

Recientemente, el gobernador Stitt y otros líderes cívicos y de salud extendieron las órdenes de estar seguros en sus casas y refugiarse en su lugar hasta fin de mes.

Con la situación siempre cambiante, suspenderé las Misas públicas en la Arquidiócesis de Oklahoma City para después  de Pascua y hasta nuevo aviso.

Todas las demás disposiciones y precauciones permanecen en su lugar.

Debemos permanecer firmes en nuestra fe y saber que no estamos solos. Oremos los unos por los otros y por todos los que están enfermos o afectados por este virus.

Continuaremos manteniéndolos informados con más cambios y ajustes según sea necesario.

Fielmente suyo en Cristo,

Arzobispo Coakley

Public Masses suspended until further notice

April 8, 2020

To the faithful of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City,

I continue to pray for you and for all of the faithful as we work to adjust to our new normal for the next few weeks. Thank you to everyone who has continued to offer private Masses, celebrated Mass and prayer online, and stayed connected in many other ways. The presence of our faith has lifted spirits, offered hope and made this time more faith filled.

In March, I issued a directive suspending public Masses until after April 16. Recently, Gov. Stitt and other civic and health leaders extended the safer-in-place and shelter-in-place orders until the end of the month.

With the ever-changing situation, I am suspending public Masses in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City beyond Easter and until further notice. All other provisions and precautions remain in place.

We must remain steadfast in our faith and know that we are not alone. Let us pray for one another and for all those who are sick or affected by this virus. We will continue to keep you informed with further changes and adjustments as needed.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Archbishop Coakley

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Homily for Palm Sunday

April 5, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


Today, in a world changed by the coronavirus, Catholics stand on the porch of Holy Week and feel the pain of not being able to enter together into the House of God. Faithful lay Catholics who all their lives long have been nourished by the beautiful rituals of this week, are in pain. For the first time in their life, they cannot celebrate together these sacred, life-giving rituals.

They cannot join in a procession waving palms and singing “Hosanna,” nor stand side by side and listen with rapt attention to the Passion account from Matthew. They cannot celebrate the great gift of the Eucharist at the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday nor adore the cross of salvation on Good Friday. Faithful Catholics throughout America and the world will not enter into the mother of all vigils, the Great Easter Vigil, that dazzling night when the bright light of divine love scatters the darkness of death This Easter Vigil newborn Christians will not emerge from the womb of the baptismal font into a new life in the Risen Christ. Easter Sunday will be a time to celebrate the Resurrection, but many will still feel entombed by stay at home restrictions and the fear of being destroyed by an invisible foe.

This week is also a sacrificial one for priests and deacons, whose hearts are broken, because they cannot celebrate this Holiest Week of the year with their people. We – priests, deacons, lay people–won’t be together because we are willing to sacrifice what is most important to us so that others might live. Because we care about the common good, we give up what we find life and joy in. So that doctors and nurses and hospitals will not be overwhelmed, so that health care providers can be protected and saved and needless live not be lost– we are willing to sacrifice even what we most cherish—the great gift of the Eucharist.

Today, as we stand on the porch of Holy Week, we look back to Ash Wednesday at the end of February and the beginning of this long Lenten Season. In some ways, Ash Wednesday feels like it happened in another lifetime, a life before the coronavirus spread across our land like wildfire. But recall on Ash Wednesday how we began this Lenten Journey literally etching a very important truth into our bodies: that we are dust and unto dust we shall return. With death all around us today, we remember we are dust. We are ash. We are.

There was another formula used with the imposition of ashes on that Wednesday toward the end of February, a shining invitation which beams like a bright beacon into the darkness of these COVID-19 days. “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” In other words, turn around and give your heart to the Great Good news of God’s saving love in Christ. Change the way you think about life, about God, and receive the truth of God’s boundless love for you in His Son.

To believe in the Gospel, we need to remember the Good News proclaimed on Christmas Eve, from the same Gospel of Matthew as today’s Passion account, that the newborn Savior would be called “Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us.” The Son of God is born for our salvation, is born to die for us and save us from the power of sin and the darkness of death. But the Son of God also empties himself of all claim to divine privilege in order to become one with us, Emmanuel, in order to suffer with us. We remember during this Holiest Week of the year how he becomes one with us in our suffering—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So that even when we feel most alone, when we feel abandoned by God, we know He indeed is with us, Emmanuel.

Jesus cries out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me.” Deeper than the physical pain of the nails and the struggle to breathe, stronger than the pain of being abandoned by those closest to him, is the pain piercing Jesus’ very spirit on the cross, as he feels abandoned by his Father.

So, Jesus knows our pain during this time of the coronavirus crisis, especially the pain of those dying alone from COVID-19 and their family members who are unable to be at their bedside. Jesus knows the pain of faithful Catholics who feel abandoned by God, who at the very time they need the Eucharist the most are not able to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord.

The Son of God knows the depth of our pain, has tasted the dregs of our feeling separated from God and all alone in the darkness. So that with Jesus we can cry out in pain from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” and know with him that the Father who has given us life, will save us and will bring us to new life.

Jesus’ cry from the cross is the first verse of Psalm 22, a psalm he knew by heart, a psalm which we sing on this Palm Sunday, because it is a prayer of great trust in God. The author of this psalm, like Jesus on the cross, feels forsaken by God, but he directs his anguish to God in prayer. Feeling abandoned by God, this faith-filled psalmist expresses solid trust that God is still taking care of him.

In spite of all evidence to the contrary, Jesus trusts that while hanging from the cross he is still the beloved Son of His Father, who is with Jesus most powerfully when he feels the Father’s absence. Joined to Jesus, giving ourselves daily to him, uniting our sacrifices of love at this time to the sacrifice of love he made on the cross, we know in the depths of our being we are not alone.