UP, UP AND AWAY
This is normally the time of year to think about graduation ceremonies. I do not recall much of my high school commencement from Superior Senior in 1976. I do remember that it was a hot, humid evening in June and that the gymnasium was stifling as more than 600 students received diplomas. The highlight of the event was going with my family afterwards for a “fancy dinner” at Cronstrom’s Supper Club on Tower Avenue. To be sure graduation this year will be a very different experience for high schoolers and college students. Most places have cancelled the public event altogether, but some schools are having virtual ceremonies and on-line parties. One small school in northern Minnesota is using an old drive-in movie theater as a venue and families will stay in their cars as graduates walk alone across the stage. Regardless of any ceremony, graduates face two realities of life: separation and sending. Graduates are leaving a very comfortable setting in school and will encounter separation from teachers and friends as they continue their vocation in life. That sense of separation leads to a new kind of adventure in the journey of living. Therefore graduation can be a rite of sending; young people begin a new chapter in the book of a lifetime. Separation and sending are coupled as life offers new beginnings.
This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord. The Risen Jesus is now going back to the Father, but His Church will continue and grow. “Separation” and “Sending” are the themes of the day. In our first reading of the liturgy (Acts 1:1-11) Saint Luke writes about the event of the Messiah’s departure. After forty days of joyful reunion Jesus returns to Heaven as the angels announce, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way.” So, there is physical separation. But the disciples also find great energy in the event because of their call to serve the Lord; there is the challenge of being sent to serve. Christ Himself promises the gift of the Holy Spirit and then proclaims, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem….to the ends of the earth.”
In the Gospel for the day (Matthew 28:16-20) the Lord ascends into Heaven but also gives the bidding, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The followers of Jesus are told to “teach and observe all that I have commanded you.” Yes there will be separation, but there is great happiness as well in living the Gospel and in following the way of the Risen Savior.
Given the past few months of dealing with this pandemic we can feel the reality of separation. We are apart from family, classmates, neighbors, fellow parishioners and coworkers. The celebration of Easter and Mother’s Day were so unusual; we kept our distance in order to keep everyone safe. We continue to endure a spring-time of separation. Many people feel alone and even desolate. Perhaps one way that we as Christians can alleviate that sense of isolation is by contemplating our common call in being sent to serve. During the crisis many people have been truly creative in reaching out to others as best they can. I believe that most folks have been more charitable and giving in the care of all. In spite of the world’s problems most have been very patient with those they encounter. So, as things slowly become more “normal” (whatever that means) let us follow Jesus as He sends us to be people of mission. Let us carry on with His endurance and love. I’ve always enjoyed the ancient hymn “Where Charity and Love Prevail There God is Ever Found.” We are being sent to live a vocation of love through Jesus’ Church. We are being sent to “make disciples” by our example of fortitude in faith.
It is a trying time for all, graduates included. There is a sense of separation in our hearts but also vim and vigor in the vocation to serve. As followers of Jesus let us find delight in our common calling: we are sent to share the love and peace of the Ascended Lord. May our faith be strengthened in knowing that Jesus is with us until “the end of the age.” There is joy in the sending!
God’s Peace and Blessings this Memorial Day Weekend!
****Please read the back page for important information.
Bishop Powers has instructed parishes to offer the distribution of Holy Communion to the faithful on Sunday afternoons. The reception will not take place during a Mass but will occur with a simple prayer opportunity to receive the Eucharist. Given the COVID-19 guidelines we are allowed only 10 people in the Church at one time. So this is what we will do at St. Francis Church on Sundays beginning May 24th:
1. The church building will be open from 10 AM until noon for private prayer and reflection. If you desire to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, light a candle or simply need some reflection time then please come to church during these hours. The church building will be locked at Noon.
2. The church will be open again at 1 PM for the Distribution of Holy Communion. Only the ramp door will be open for entrance. Communion will be distributed from 1 PM until 2 PM.
3. When you enter the ramp door you will be met by an usher-guide. Only eight individuals at one time can participate in the reception of Communion. Stay to your right and when you are instructed by the usher-guide proceed down the center aisle to the front of the church.
Please keep proper social distancing and stand in the center aisle on one of the tape-marked spots. Father Jim (or another communion minister) will lead a short prayer before the distribution of the Eucharist to the group.
4. Once you have received Communion, please exit the church by way of the 5th Street side aisle. Stay to your right as you leave the building. Please do not stop for private prayer in the pews or to visit with others. We ask that you exit the building immediately once you are back at the ramp door. The proper flow of traffic will allow another group of eight people to take their place in the center aisle.
5. When you are in church for the Eucharist please wear a facemask. You will remove your face mask before your receive Communion. Please sanitize your hands when arriving in the church and before you leave. Containers of hand sanitizer are available at the door.
6. We ask that you receive Communion in your hands and not on the tongue. This will diminish the possibility of any spread of disease.
7. The Distribution of Communion will be for one hour only (1 PM until 2 PM) or until all are satisfied. The church building will be locked after 2 PM.
8. Again, please keep proper social distancing in mind, both in the parking lot and in the church. Thank you for your help.
9. We will see how this process works. God help us!