Parishioners and Friends of Saint Josephine Bakhita Parish,
This may sound a bit freaky to you. I have always felt that God has been with me: when I was a child, when I was an adolescent, when I was a young adult and especially now. I am acutely aware that this awareness is not something that I accomplished because I am holier than anyone else, but that it is simply a gift from God for which I am grateful. Of course, I have my days, especially in the past few months, when I wonder. In the last few weeks, many folks have spoken of their sincere sorrow for the absence of Eucharist and can’t wait to return.
As Catholics, we still believe that Jesus is indeed present in the Eucharistic Bread, as the source and the summit of our religious and spiritual lives. But awareness of other ways that Jesus is present became very popular after Vatican II…not to diminish the intensity of our belief of the presence of Jesus in the reserved sacrament.
In fact, Vatican Council II says that Christ is present with us in the people of the church, gathering, praying and singing, in the person of the priest in the celebration of the sacraments, in the proclamation of the Holy Scriptures, and especially in the Eucharist: the consecrated bread and wine at Mass.
In the past two months, I have been taken by how poignant it is to see the presence of Christ in the people I encounter. As if they were walking tabernacles, holding the presence of Jesus. Of course, and sad to say, I have met a few folks who speak of just the opposite….the absence of Christ. But, I won’t dwell on that right now.
Yes, these days, so many of us acutely miss the opportunity to gather together in prayer and hear the word of God and receive the Body and Blood of Christ. But, maybe there is a very unusual opportunity, under the stresses of our days and our social isolation, which can open us up to those other ways of knowing the abiding presence of Christ. For example, some folks experience the abiding presence of Christ in the beauty and majesty of nature, in the service of the poor and suffering, in their spouses, children and friends, in still quiet moments when we are alone, even in times of great loss and sorrow.
I can’t help but think of the great poets who waxed eloquently on such profound theological truth: As Elizabeth Barret Browning put it, “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.” The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins puts it this way: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
Then of course the truth revealed in scripture. The Psalmist asks, “Where can I go from your spirit, from your presence where can I flee? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I sink to the nether world, you are present there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall guide me, your right hand hold me fast.”
And, yes, the very final words of Jesus to his disciples in this week-ends Gospel: “I am with you always, until the end of time.” Peace!
Fr. George Couturier
Do you find yourself in need of a compassionate ear for your grief due to a loss of a loved one from the coronavirus? Send your name, email address and phone number to me via email and I will connect you to a local bereavement minister from the parish: