With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, bishops across the country have decided to comply with the requests of government officials to suspend large gatherings by canceling public Masses and, in some cases, public adoration as well. And regardless of whether or not we think this is an appropriate thing to do (probably not; yes it may or may not be a large gathering, but hello, it’s Holy Mass. You think Jesus would have canceled the Last Supper and the giving of Himself because of health concerns?), the fact remains that it’s happening and we have no choice but to deal with it and try to do our best to stay close to Jesus and remain spiritually united with Him until the time comes when we can go to Mass again.
First things first: You probably already know this, but it is NOT a mortal sin to miss Mass in this case. Mortal sin requires that you have control over the situation and willingly decide to do or not do something. This particular situation is out of our hands and God would not hold the faithful liable for something they couldn’t control.
It is fitting that we should be going through this particular trial during Lent. Lent is a time to be in the desert with Jesus. He is calling us to use this opportunity to be in an even greater desert than usual and mortify ourselves even more than normal. Jesus says in Luke 5:35 that “the days will come when the Bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Lent is a time of fasting and God has ordained in this particular Lenten season that we should go through a more severe period of being without Him and thus, through a more severe period of fasting. But why?
Perhaps He wants us to step back and reflect on the reason we even go to Mass in the first place and why regular attendance is required by the Church. It is also a chance for us to reflect on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and what a gift He has given us. We should also look at why we believe that Christ is truly present. Sadly, belief in the Real Presence has declined, even among Catholics, and so maybe we need to reexamine the Church’s teaching on this and why She holds it to be true. If we reflect on these things, we can go back to Mass with a new appreciation and understanding of how important it is and what a gift it is for us. This reflection will actually serve us better in the long run than if we had continued to be able to attend Mass routinely, with the possible effect that that’s all it becomes, just part of a routine.
Fr. Mitch Pacwa from EWTN said in his homily on Tuesday that this also gives us an opportunity to gain more empathy for those who are so persecuted in other parts of the world that their churches have been shut down long before now and they are no longer able to attend to Mass freely. For them, this problem will likely continue long after our churches reopen. We can unite our suffering and ordeal with theirs and pray for them. Most importantly, we will be able to identify with them in the future and know what they’re going through, so our prayers and sacrifices for them will mean more.
Since we are barred from attending Mass, you might be wondering what to do. EWTN is a great resource, since they have continued to broadcast their daily 8 am Mass and Sunday Masses even though their diocese has also been barred from having public Masses. On weekdays, the daily Mass re-airs at noon and 7 pm. They have said that their Sunday Mass will be re-aired more often since (now all) dioceses in the U.S. are without public Masses, but I don’t currently have those times available. Also, they have announced that during the next few weeks, they will broadcast adoration from their chapel daily for 10 minutes, between the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Rosary (3:20-3:30 ET) and direct viewers to either their website or Facebook page if they wish to continue to adore longer. It is available from 9 am to 6 pm ET. Do not forget to also continue reading and meditating on the Scripture readings for Mass.
Let’s make sure that we do not neglect Jesus or our spiritual life during this time. In fact, we need Him now more than ever. With Him always with us, we will get through this. We should also be comforted by the fact that although we may be without it now, if we persevere and stay close to God in this life, we will be at Holy Mass perpetually in the next.
May God bless you and keep you all safe and healthy during this time.