This past week St. Mary’s suffered a terrible loss. Mr. Don Dawson, a member of our community for fifty years, became the first parishioner we know of to succumb to the corona virus. He leaves behind his wife Moira, daughter Shannon, and the rest of the wonderful Doran family. A professional in the financial world, Don served his country in the military, and made invaluable contributions to St. Mary’s as a Knight of Columbus, Religious Education Teacher, Usher, Eucharistic Minister, and volunteer who counted the weekly collection. In all this he demonstrated integrity and trustworthiness as a steward of parish resources. Don was one of a very small number of EMs who were utterly faithful in bringing the Eucharist to our friends at Sun Harbor Nursing Home here in Roslyn. His Brother Knights remember him as a friendly, generous man who was always willing to help those in need, and who showed a quiet, dry sense of humor. As it happened, Don came to the rectory at the beginning of the national lockdown, and we had a good talk. His love for our parish family was evident in virtually every word he spoke. I’m sure you can appreciate that his own lack of access to the sacrament of the Eucharist, and his inability to bring it to his suffering brothers and sisters, weighed heavily upon Don. This was a man of God whose ardent love of Christ’s Real Presence was at the center of his life. His fidelity to God and kindness to his neighbor serve as a challenge to us all, but particularly to his pastor. Would that we were all so good.
Normally, I speak at length of the weekly readings, but today I would simply call attention to the gospel, which continues from last week. We heard Jesus assure his disciples that he is going away to prepare a place for them, so that we can be with him forever. This week we hear that, in the meantime, Jesus will ask the Father to send another Advocate, or Paraclete, to be with us, so that we can bear witness to him. This, of course, is the Holy Spirit, the bond of Love between the Father and the Son. By keeping Christ’s commandment of love, the believer reflects the very life of God in this world, and experiences here below a glimpse of the Kingdom where there will be only peace, salvation, and eternal happiness in the Lord.
True, we Catholics acknowledge that human beings are body and soul, and so the touch of divine grace is not simply an interior experience. We need the sacramental life of the Church, as it strengthens our will, enlightens our mind, and softens our heart with God’s love and wisdom. Right now, however, circumstances dictate that we refrain from gathering in the house of God, and we rightly feel the pain of that separation. What are we to make of this?
St. Thomas Aquinas, when discussing Purgatory said the following: “The least pain of Purgatory surpasses the greatest pain of this life. For the more a thing is desired, the more painful is its absence” (Appendix 1, 2). If at present we experience pain, whether at the loss of our friend Don, or our inability to receive the sacraments, I’d like to think that this is the shadow side of something quite beautiful, namely, our love for God, and a profound faith that we will be united with each other, and with the Lord, in the Kingdom of Heaven.