In the dryness of the “desert” and fasting from the Eucharist, Archbishop Jason Gordon is asking Catholics to remember the desert as “privileged space” where God speaks to His people. Families can strengthen the “house church” by praying, reciting the rosary and reading scripture.
“In these days of fasting like we’ve never fasted before; in these days of yearning for the Eucharist and [where] we cannot participate as we normally would, let us see in the desert time a fast, a sacrifice that would deepen and cleanse and purify our faith in Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Gordon said last Sunday at the Living Water Community (LWC) Chapel, Port of Spain.
There were three choir members present, LWC director Suzanne Dowdy who did the readings and Deacon Derek Walcott. In a media release March 4, the Archdiocese publicised changes to liturgical practices: distribution of wine—the Precious Blood—would cease; Holy Communion in the hands only; no holy water; and ministers of the Eucharist must sanitise their hands before and after distribution.
The decision to temporarily stop Masses came via another release from the Archdiocese March 13 as the country recorded its second confirmed case of COVID-19 and with Prime Minister Keith Rowley’s announcement of the closure of schools, universities and learning facilities to slow potential spread of infection. Archbishop Jason Gordon said the decision to halt Masses because of the COVID-19 was a terrible and difficult decision to make but believes this is what God asked of him.
In the homily, he discussed the “layers” of meaning in gospel reading John 4: 5–42, the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Her testimony caused people in her village to believe but this was strengthened by their own meeting with Jesus. Archbishop Gordon said the transmission of faith—to persons, community, is one of the challenges facing the Church.
He asked, “How many of you have given your faith to your children?” The “ultimate” transmission of the faith, he continued, was when children can say like the people in the Samaritan woman’s village, “I no longer believe because of you; I believe because I have seen Him myself”.
Archbishop Gordon said, “…that is the piece in our catechetical formation that is not working as well as it should because we are not giving the faith to the next generation where they come to the personal belief in the faith of Jesus themselves, not because of what you say but what Jesus has done for them in their lives”.
With the coronavirus topical, he cited information that the common cold could infect 1.3 people for every one person infected, but the coronavirus could infect 2.2 people.
“We have to be more active so that more people come to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and encounter that Gospel as a life-giving gospel for which they can live their whole lives and upon which they can put everything in them and if we do that, the gospel takes a new life and goes forward in a new way,” he added.
Under “these days of desolation”, he called for Catholics to turn away from “frivolity” and focus on their family, households and prayer.
Archbishop Gordon said, “Pick up your rosary. Remember we used to have the family rosary—let us pull out the family rosary again and let us gather again and pray the rosary. Let us open the scriptures and pray the scriptures. Let us pray together as a family.”
While there can be no congregation for Masses, he said his prayer was that the inward hunger for the Eucharist will not dissipate but increase, “and in our hunger and thirst for God we will seek God in every way that we can.”