Letter from the Pastor.
Fifth Week of Easter—May 11 – 17, 2020
The church has us read John’s Gospel on Good Friday and then throughout the Easter season. In John’s perspective, we enter a unique relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as John’s prologue proclaims: “to those who did accept [Jesus] he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in [Jesus’] name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by man’s decision but of God” (Jn.1: 12-13).
Later this week the gospel readings highlight the spiritual meaning of this relationship as God’s children. In John 15 Jesus uses the allegory of the vine and the branches. This challenges us to see our relationship in a corporate sense: we are united with other believers in a relationship with God. Bonded together, we draw sustenance from the person of Jesus Christ, the source of divine nourishment precisely because of our unity.
In John 15, the word “remain” occurs twelve times: “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains in me.” The call to remain includes remaining in relationship with all our brothers and sisters. It is the bond of love that enables us to remain united in Jesus and with one another.
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” The word “love” occurs ten times in John 15. Love is communicated from the Father through the Son to all believers, who in turn should share it with each other.
The only law Jesus gives his disciples is the law of love: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you” (15:12). In the other Gospels this love commandment is expressed as a command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” So, the Gospels contain very little insofar as ethics is concerned.
The command of love in John is modeled after the way Jesus loved us believers: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Love for one another witnesses to the closeness of a disciple’s relationship with Jesus. Do I love my neighbors—all of them?
The spiritual theology of John is timeless. During the last supper Jesus addresses a message from paradise to believers of every age. Spirituality centered on love is the foundation for every Christian’s life: love unites believers to the Father and Son and moves outward toward others through the impulse of the Spirit: love is open to everyone.
Adapted from the writing of Father Patrick J. Hartin, senior pastor in the parish of Our Lady of Fatima.
The Archdiocese of Newark values the need to be gradual in reopening churches and has published some directives, which St. Lucy’s Church will follow. How this will be executed is still being determined, and it will occur in three phases. “Each phase will be rolled out with specific dates and directives to follow determined by the Archdiocese of Newark.” Cardinal Tobin will, however, continue to dispense the faithful from the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and Holy Days. Those who are at risk because of an underlying health issue or who are 60 or older are strongly encouraged to avoid risks posed by attendance at public celebrations of Mass .
Phase 1—Churches will first be opened for personal prayer only. Individuals and families may come to church for quiet prayer, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation may be celebrated, if social distancing can be maintained and masks are worn. The Archdiocese of Newark set the date for the commencement of Phase One on Sunday, 17 May 2020. Individuals and families who come for personal prayer should limit their time in the church so that we may maintain “social distancing.” Please limit your time in the church to 15 minutes.
As Pastor, I have decided that the church will remain closed until Sunday, 7 June 2020. As mentioned last week in my letter (May 4-10, 2020) the parish staff began working hard inside the empty church. All the church woodwork has received a new coat of varnish; the terrazzo floors are being deep cleaned, as well as the marble steps. This work is in process. Currently pews are out of place, and cleaning equipment rests here and there. For this reason the church will remain closed until Sunday, 7 June 2020.
Regarding the observance of the Ascension of the Lord, Cardinal Joseph Tobin has approved the transfer of this obligatory feast from Thursday (May 21) to Sunday (May 24). As usual, the Sunday Mass in Spanish will be live-streamed at 9:00 a.m. and in English at 11:00 a.m.
Phase 2—Churches will be permitted to celebrate public weekday Masses and funerals with very specific restrictions, such as the strict practice of social distancing, use of masks and limited number of people present (Date to be determined).
Phrase 3—Churches will be permitted to celebrate Sunday Mass publically with the obligatory practices of social distancing, use of masks and limited number of people present. All other sacraments will resume according to directives (Date to be determined).
In phase 3, to participate in the Mass, I request that people pre-register online or by phone on Thursday and Friday between the hours of 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. As mentioned in my letter (May 4-10, 2020), when we account for “social distancing,” the capacity of the church is 92 persons. Also, I am requesting that on entering the church, participants have their temperature checked. Those found to have a temperature will be asked to remain outside in the parking lot. The door on Amity Place and the side door opening to the garages and Rectory parking lot are designated as the ENTRANCE doors to church. The EXIT doors will be the front doors leading to the plaza. Leaving the church, participants will have to practice social distancing and to wear facial masks.