As I am writing this, it has now been 71 days since I announced that we would be temporarily suspending public Masses in the Diocese of Green Bay. To put that into a liturgical perspective, the announcement came just days after the third Sunday of Lent. That means our time away from the public celebration of the Eucharist has now lasted for half of Lent, all of Holy Week and the Triduum, and now all 50 days of the Easter season. When I made the decision back on March 17, I certainly did not expect it to last this long.
As you likely know by now, our plan is to begin the public celebration of Masses on a limited basis the weekend of June 13-14, the feast of Corpus Christi. This is good news! Like many of you, I have been eagerly awaiting the time to join together for the Eucharist. You can find more information about the specifics of our plan on the diocesan website, gbdioc.org. In this column, though, I want to take some time to reflect on where we’ve been and how I believe the Holy Spirit is guiding us into the next phase of this pandemic.
In many ways it seems as though, in these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been a people wandering in the desert. Or perhaps like the apostles gathered in the Upper Room with the Blessed Mother after the Ascension and before the coming of the Holy Spirit. Both of these comparisons are fitting given the overlap between this time of quarantine and the seasons of Lent and Easter.
Similar to our ancestors in the Scriptures, fear, panic and unsettling loss have been our companions in these past weeks. In these challenging times, we need Jesus, not worry; we need a deeper relationship with the Lord, not doubt; we need to trust in the power of God, not to rely on our own self-sufficiency.
How beautifully fitting, then, that in the midst of these challenges we celebrated the feast of Pentecost this past Sunday. We recalled the first major outpouring of the Holy Spirit that gave birth to the church.
And guess what, brothers and sisters? Two thousand years later, the Holy Spirit is right here with us, in the constant love of Jesus. What a great comfort it is, knowing that the Holy Spirit is guiding us. In fact, there are many people of advanced wisdom and experience in the spiritual realm who believe that we are in a similar place as that of those early followers. We are being poised by Divine Providence for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. One that calls each of us to a deeper repentance of sin. One that will illuminate our minds and transform our hearts with the “fire of Divine Love” and compel us forward to witness to others the power of God in our lives. I pray this is true!
So with confidence, let us again entrust ourselves to the care and guidance of the Holy Spirit. That old hymn we have been singing in the church at this time every year seems much more poignant and efficacious this year:
Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest
And in our hearts take up thy rest.
Come with thy grace
And heavenly aid,
To fill the hearts which Thou hast made,
To fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
Let us pray together in the next days and weeks, over and over; Come, Holy Spirit!
Come, Holy Spirit! Come, Holy Spirit!
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.