COVID-19 and the sacraments

| Bishop Andrew Cozzens | April 23, 2020 | 0 Comments

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24).

As I sat and prayed on Holy Saturday morning, I thought of this verse as my heart ached because the Church could not gather to celebrate the sacred Easter Triduum. I prayed that this time of being in the tomb as the Church would bear fruit for the salvation of souls. I want to invite you to join me in that prayer.

Bishop Andrew CozzensI am aware that many of you share this pain I have, because you have expressed it to me in your letters.

I am grateful to receive these letters as they expressed the deep love that you have for Our Lord’s presence and his very life, which is shared with us through the Eucharist. I also love the Eucharist, and I have given my life for this gift. I love the line of St. John Paul II, who described his priesthood by saying, “I was ordained a servant of the Eucharist.” Due to that love for the Eucharist, the decision made by Pope Francis and every bishop in the United States to suspend regularly scheduled public Masses has been so painful for us all.

I understand that many people are upset because they feel they are being deprived of God’s help at the time when they need it the most. It is very important to recognize, however, that although most of the faithful are deprived right now of holy Communion, God’s grace is even more available to those same people because of this situation. What we need is the faith to access this grace. Let me explain.

The sacraments are gifts to us because they bring us God’s grace. Grace is the very life of God that is shared with us. But, it is important to understand that many of the sacraments are continual sources of grace, not simply moments when we get grace and then we move on. For example, baptism is not a one-time reality that happened in the past, but a continual source of grace for us to draw upon. As Christ himself told the woman at the well, “The water I shall give will become … a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14) or, as he said in John 7 (37-38): “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’”

Baptism marks our soul forever with a sacred character, and it causes the Holy Trinity to dwell in us. This indwelling of the Holy Trinity is a continual fount of grace, of life-giving water. Day in and day out, we can draw on the graces of our baptism to live in communion with God, if we exercise faith and pay attention to the presence of the indwelling Trinity.

The same is true with the sacrament of confirmation, which continually gives us strength to stand strong in witnessing to our faith, if we live in a state of grace and draw upon the graces through faith. It is also true of the sacrament of marriage, which forms an unbreakable sacramental bond within the couple and can be a continual, daily source of grace for them to learn to love as Christ loved. These sources can be impeded by sin, but they are strengthened by faith.

Thus, we have the ability to continue to live a sacramental life, a life in communion with God every day regardless of whether or not we receive holy Communion.

It is also true that the sacraments are not the only ways to receive grace. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear, “(God) himself is not bound by his sacraments” (CCC 1257). God can give grace in many different ways and often does. For example, in our life of daily prayer or reading the Bible he can speak to our hearts and enliven his grace in us. Or when we make some act of sacrificial love for him through fasting, or giving up something that we love, these acts often open us to receive more grace. When we exercise our faith, we then receive the grace to say “yes” to whatever God is asking of us.

We know that God promises to be with us in every trial and to share with us the peace of his love in those trials. Jesus said, “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (Jn 16:33). What this means is that in a time like this when we are confined to our homes and unable to attend Mass, there is actually more grace available to us. God in his love always provides for us, and he will not punish us for what is beyond our control. If we respond rightly to this trial, precisely because we don’t have the normal comfort of going to Mass and holy Communion, we can actually grow more spiritually in this time.

My firm hope and prayer is that all of us as a Church can go through this painful experience together. You may disagree with the prudence of the archbishop to cancel public Masses, but you can still offer the pain of this sacrifice for your own salvation, and for the salvation of your loved ones and of the world, not to mention for the thousands who are dying from this disease.

If all of us from the midst of our pain of not being able to be together at Mass and receive holy Communion unite that pain to the pain of Jesus on the cross, then there will be a torrent of graces that flow out upon the world in this time. It will create a deep longing for the gift of holy Communion in many, and we will receive even more grace when we finally get to return to Mass regularly.

This is the promise of Jesus to us in our suffering, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24). Let us pray that this time in the tomb for us as a Church might produce abundant fruit in the Resurrection.

COVID-19 y los sacramentos

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Category: Only Jesus