Letter from Fr. Keith (May 22)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

Today, we begin Phase II of progressing out of the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. The Diocese is in on-going discussion with the provincial Public Health Office in relation to the re-opening of our churches. Indications at this time, from places further along in the process, are that our going-back will be accompanied by guidelines limiting numbers and prescribing distancing measures and other safe-guards. We will be kept informed.

We celebrate the Ascension of the Lord this week, as the Easter season moves toward its close at Pentecost. Over the past Sundays, we have been hearing from the gospel accounts of the appearances of Jesus to the disciples after he had risen, and their reaction to his new and unfamiliar presence. We’ve also been listening to the Acts of the Apostles, relating episodes in the life of the early Christian community, describing for us the issues they faced, and how they responded. As always, when we relate to the word of God, we have been presented with the privilege and the challenge of finding, in those inspired New Testament words, the story of our own lives, as well as the direction toward which Christ Jesus calls us to live them.

We’ve been reminded of the chaos and confusion in which those early followers of Jesus found themselves after he had been crucified. Their stories show us the gradual way they came to believe in and respond to the mystery of the resurrection. Gradually deepening belief and response to the mystery of the resurrection: is that not the story of our lives—individually and as a people?

From Matthew’s gospel this Sunday, we hear the final words of Jesus to his followers before he ascends to the Father. Go therefore…And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age. How often in moments of challenge and uncertainty did those words come back to Peter and James and John? How many times did Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene and Thomas listen for the echo of that promise? What about the desert fathers and mothers in Egypt as they sought the Lord in prayer and solitude? How many times were saints, like Martha and Benedict and Dunstan and Teresa of Avila and Thomas Aquinas and Catherine of Siena and Francis of Assisi and Ignatius Loyola and Marguerite Bourgeoys and Teresa of Calcutta heartened by that pledge?

Society’s efforts to come out of the experience of the past two months may pose as great a challenge as have physical distancing and self-isolation. Following public health directives, individually and together, we’ll find the balance between caution and courage. In it all, as Dr. Morrison said today, we’ll do best if we are patient and kind.

Go therefore…And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age. Recollect the power and the mystery of God’s words. From the mouth of Jesus, they were first spoken to his friends as they charted their course over an unfamiliar terrain. God’s word is alive and active says the letter to the Hebrews. Words spoken in history resound in every age, including our own.

The same reassurance Jesus gave those gathered with him on the Galilean mountain long ago are repeated to us, as we go forth in his name and with his message into our own twenty-first-century future. Through the power of the Spirit, in the company of one another, the same Jesus is with us, and through us, with our global community: comforting, challenging, directing, guiding. In his name, may we go forth—even if with some trembling—to respond to his saving presence and call. His promise is sure. Across our unfamiliar post-COVID terrain, we do not journey alone.

Once again this Sunday at 10:30, we plan to live stream the Mass from SDU Place. This is the link:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1259201370949158  .Thanks to the liturgical ministers who are involved, and to Joe Chevarie for his technical prowess and his commitment to the cause. Our appreciation, as well, to the Knights of Columbus for supplying us with equipment to enhance the internet signal.

These past few days, especially, have given us beautiful spring weather. From morning to evening, one can observe the leaves opening. I went for my first bike ride of the season on Wednesday. The lettuce, planted last week, is up. I hope you’ve been able to get out in the air, and that you gardeners and out-doors-enthusiasts are revelling in the opportunity the season bestows.

I’ll close with these words from St. Augustine. “Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him…For just as he remained with us after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us is not yet fulfilled in our bodies…Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace…” In other words, friends, we are one with him and in him, and he is one with us, seated at the Father’s right hand. We in him; he in us. Imagine if we lived day to day conscious of that! May that unity be our courage, our consolation, and our hope. May we be generous in sharing these gifts all around.

Let us continue to pray for each other and for our world in these days of grace—trying days, in many respects, but nonetheless, days of grace.

Peace be with you and yours,

Fr. Keith


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