For some time now, we have been slowly and safely trying to re-open St Agnes, especially our weekend schedule. This has included increased capacity, and no more pre-registration. We have also been continuing the 10:30 am radio Mass option. After consulting those necessary in leadership, we have decided on Sunday, June 27th to restart the 8:00am Sunday morning Mass. This is the same weekend the bishop lifted the Holy Day of obligation dispensation. Even though he has lifted it, I would remind people that, if you don’t feel safe to return yet, it is in Catholic Teaching in good conscience totally acceptable to not return. I have decided in the pastoral letter for those especially in vulnerable categories who cannot make it to Mass to offer some thoughts on the homily. I also ask that if you are in a vulnerable category to please contact the parish office if you would like someone to bring you communion. Additionally, we will leave the church open for prayer on Wednesday afternoons following Mass until 4pm.

We are just now moving back into ordinary time even though we are living in extraordinary times. Today Jesus tells the story of the parable of the mustard seed to explain the reign of God and how, by God’s grace, in a very natural way it grows and develops. One key to unlocking these parables of Jesus is the call to become childlike if we want to see the reign of God. I think if we are honest when we look at our own lives and things that have been happening in our country around us we see, at times, what is childish behavior. Perhaps this is simply a call as disciples to continue to mature in our journey of faith.

As I read this parable of a small seed that becomes such a large tree, I had a memory of my own childhood. Where my aunt lives, across from her property there was a large willow tree and, as a child with my cousins and siblings, it was our favorite place to play. We realized we loved the tree, and the tree loved us. One day without our knowing it those who owned this piece of commercial property decided to cut this tree down. We were upset and thought it was very inconsiderate that they would take this tree, that we had a special relationship with, because it was no longer seen as efficient or productive; maybe its roots were getting in the way of business, or maybe they just got tired of how the tree continued to get into the telephone wires. If you ever read the Giving Tree, one of my favorite stories, the author, Silversteen, is making a point that I think is often missed. As we grow up, we often learn to take and take, and it is not until the boy becomes an old man that he learns the gift of being. I bring this up because I wonder if we might all learn to live in more natural, sustainable ways. I wonder if this is the call of the new normal. Perhaps the really young and our elders have a lot to teach us. They often invite us see life less as what we take and more as gift. I often think of my grandpap and my nanny (grandma). They would talk to their plants and were certain it helped them grow. They realized that the natural world was a gift. I think today’s parable invites us to see faith as a gift and to see life as a response to the generosity of God’s love and that part of the reign of God is to come along side of the gift of life and celebrate it. I wonder, like that willow tree, if we could look at the liturgy as sort of playground where grace works naturally in the relationships around us. Perhaps that is why the church is often looked at as a living organism; that, if we are attuned to it, we can truly be a sign of the reign of God. I think this happens when, like a parable, we allow the signs and symbols we celebrate to invite us into a new reality where we see life not simply in pragmatic ways, but as a gift that we respond to in our community and world. Perhaps this is the new normal or new church that is coming into being. As disciples perhaps the best gift we can offer the world is to become more childlike and see the reign of God in our world.