The Responsorial Psalm for this weekend's Masses tells us what is needed to live well as a community of peace and hope. We must listen to the voice of God and apply it to our daily lives and help others to do the same. The refrain for Psalm 95 is: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” Yes, this is easier said than done and if there is any time in our lives where it is applicable, it is now!
An honest question that we should ask ourselves as a parish community is: How has the pandemic and all its limitations changed our life as a faith community? During these past few months, it has been a challenge not to “harden our hearts” and let our spirits be dampened. The ongoing pandemic has certainly tried to beat us down and make us lose heart in everything. But, rather than surrender, and become one of its victims, we need to stay hopeful and celebrate the blessings that we have in our families and parish. Our world and specifically our church will certainly experience changes and what we will become remains to be seen. Despite the many changes and limitations, that we may have to accept, we will remain strong and united if we remain close to our faith and God.
It is obvious that a major impact on our community is the dwindling numbers or people attending Mass and being able to meet for programs and meetings. Our community at this time last year had some 600 people attending weekend masses. Now, there are about 250 who regularly attend on the weekends. Our Gym-Church can seat 140 and now only about 80 seats per Mass are occupied. We have heard the Lords voice so we will not “harden our hearts.” That we can have Mass is a blessing, and we should not be overly concerned about the attendance numbers.
An important part of any parishes life and energy are its Formation Programs. From the instructing of our Keiki to the spiritual nourishment of our adult parishioners, we will do what is necessary to strengthen the faith life of everyone. This is not an option but a necessity for the Body of Christ to continue living and growing. Here too we are experiencing the impact of the pandemic. After a month of On-Line registrations for our Religious Education program for children (CCD) we have only one new child and six returning children enrolled. We will not “harden our hearts” but will provide good and solid classes in the Faith for these children. The same is true for our parish R.C.I.A. program that has one gentleman inquiring about the Catholic faith and wishes to join our church. Our team of Instructors are ready, willing, and able to share and instruct him in the faith, the sacraments, and all aspects of the faith. Praise God!
And what about those families who have had the death of a loved one in the past few months? For many of them, they are choosing to delay the funeral until a later date when family and friends can attend without too many limitations and restrictions. Although this may delay a sense of closure, they are steadfast in wanting a proper Catholic funeral and burial for their loved ones. They too have not “hardened their hearts” and are being respectful of their beloved dead.
This pandemic has also impacted our brothers and sisters who are homebound, aged, or ill and cannot receive Holy Communion from one of our Extra-Ordinary ministers of Communion. Given the various restrictions, each of them must be kept safe from the spreading of the virus in any way, especially from someone outside of their family. Although the obligation to attend Mass is still lifted by Bishop Larry, these parishioners are spiritually united to us through prayer and viewing Mass On-Line. They may be physically separated from us, but they are never forgotten. Neither they nor us will “harden our hearts.”
Also impacted by the pandemic are the regular meetings of our Pastoral Council, Adult Faith Formation ministry, Stewardship Committee, Finance Council, Cancer-Support Group, Charismatic Prayer Group, NeoCatechumenal Way, Choir, Family Promise Program, Thrift Shop, Crafters Group, and other important gatherings of parishioners. Most of these groups try to stay in touch with one another by using On-Line meeting apps or through other social media connections. All these courageous men and women are not “hardening their hearts” but are doing the best that they can, given these trying circumstances and they are being successful thank God.
So, we have chosen to do the right things that will keep us safe and healthy as a parish family. We have decided to remain strong in our faith and outlook on life. Instead of being negative we should move forward despite not being 100% sure of what will happen next. Let us be committed to remaining strong in our being a community of faith that never allows our hearts to become ‘hardened’. Whatever changes we may have to accept, let us see them as opportunities to remain close to God and one another. When we return to that “new normal” that everyone keeps talking about, we will pick up where we left off last March and journey forward to where the Lord leads us.
Please look at the September page of our Parish calendar. In three short words it reminds us of who we are: People of God!