Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,
Today, as I write this, is Day 1 of Phase 1 in the process of easing COVID-19 restrictions in our province. There is cause for rejoicing, though we continue to be cautioned that the virus has not yet been defeated. It remains essential that we continue to follow public health guidelines, avoiding the temptation to exceed what we are permitted to do in relation to activities and interpersonal contact. We are encouraged that our adherence to present regulations will be for our collective benefit in the longer term. As we move through the phases, how they impact us as a faith community will become more clear. For now, the situation continues as it has been since mid-March.
This Fourth Sunday of Easter has traditionally been known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Jesus is the “Good Shepherd,” tending the flock to which all of us belong. That’s how we interpret the psalm we will pray at this Sunday’s Mass. Jesus leads us. He guides us. He restores us. He feeds us. He soothes us. In other words, he cares for us our “whole life long.” And we know, that by the power of his Cross and Resurrection, our “whole life long” stretches into eternity.
There is no better-known or more-beloved psalm than Psalm 23. Its words of comfort convince us, in the midst of life’s ups and downs, that “goodness and mercy shall follow [us] all the days of [our] life.” Further, ultimately, no matter how we might feel in the throws of chaos and uncertainly—personal and societal—goodness and mercy retain the upper hand, and have the final triumph.
God’s word in Psalm 23 comforts us. God’s word in Psalm 23 does something else for us. It challenges us. Expect to find comfort and challenge in every encounter with the word of God. Both hold out the gift of salvation. To find the challenge in Psalm 23, it helps to go back to the very first chapter of the very first book in the Bible: Genesis. There we learn that human beings are made in the “image and likeness” of God. In other words, at our depths we profoundly resemble God. So if God, in Christ, shepherds us, we are called and empowered to shepherd one another.
One of the ways we do that in this spring of 2020 is by following the guidelines that are laid out for us by public health. We don’t have to travel far afield or accomplish head-line-grabbing feats in order to shepherd each other in the name of Jesus. Simply be faithful and generous and responsible in living every day, as he was when he walked the hills of Galilee. In him, that’s what saves the day. That’s how the salvation he brings is experienced and shared. No frills. Faithful living in the big things and the small. Spouses being faithful, parents nurturing their children, members of families caring for each other, neighbours looking out for neighbours, people of good will responding to the needs of those on the other side of the globe: That’s what it is to be shepherds, in imitation of and in gratitude to the “Good Shepherd.” It takes sacrifice. That, too, is a gesture of imitation and gratitude. We learn from Jesus that loving sacrifice is the door that opens unto new life—for those making the sacrifice and for those receiving it.
A concrete way to shepherd in our present situation: is there anyone you know who may need a phone call or a connection of some kind? Please reach out to them. If I can be of support, or you’d like me to make an outreach, contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or 902-894-3486. The Knights have also offered their services. Contact Don Chevarie 902-566-4337. Other parishioners have offered to be in phone contact with anyone who would appreciate that. As I mentioned previously, those folks can be reached through me.
We plan to live stream the Mass from SDU Place this Sunday at 10:30. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/events/234039087940915/
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” says the Psalm. In the risen One, may we be goodness and mercy to one another, goodness and mercy for the sake of the world.
Peace be with you,
PS Below is a copy of the message of sympathy I sent earlier this week on our behalf to the mayor of Colchester County, Nova Scotia.
Dear Mayor Blair, I'm sending along this note to express our deepest sympathies to you and to the people of Colchester County in the aftermath of the horrific events of April 18 and 19. Colchester County is a part of Nova Scotia with which so many PE Islanders are familiar as we make our way across the bridge to Halifax, so the pain all of you feel is the anguish of our neighbours and friends. We share your grief, and, every day, hold you, your colleagues, and the people of your community in our thoughts and prayers.
Fr. Keith Kennific and the People of St. Dunstan's Cathedral Basilica Parish, Charlottetown