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Gomez: Churches may be closed, but 'Lord's heart remains' open to all


Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is seen at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome Jan. 31, 2020. In his message for Holy Week, he said Christ is "not quarantined" and the Lord's heart "remains open" to all amid the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Disease and death have darkened the world this Lent and Holy Week, with our societies shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, but "we know that our Redeemer lives," said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"Even in this extraordinary and challenging moment, we give thanks for what Jesus Christ has done for us by his life, death and resurrection," Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez said in message to U.S. Catholics for Holy Week, the "most sacred days of the year."

"Even now, we marvel at the beautiful mystery of our salvation, how precious each one of us is in the eyes of God," he said.

"This Holy Week is different because our churches may be closed, but Christ is not quarantined and his Gospel is not in chains," Archbishop Gomez added in his message released late April 3. "Our Lord's heart remains open to every man and woman. Even though we cannot worship together, each of us can seek him in the tabernacles of our own hearts."

He acknowledged that he and his fellow bishops are "painfully aware" the Catholic people are "troubled and hurt by the loss of the Eucharist and the consolation of the sacraments," noting that because of the worldwide contagion bishops in the U.S. and in almost every country have had to temporarily suspend public celebration of the Mass and other sacraments.

But even though the faithful are separated from the Real Presence for the time being from, the "Lord's heart remains" open to all, Archbishop Gomez said.

"Because he loves us, and because his love can never change, we should not be afraid, even in this time of trial and testing," he said. "In these mysteries that we remember this week, let us renew our faith in his love. And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to intercede for us, that he might deliver us from every evil and grant us peace in our day."

The archbishop's Holy Week message was released by the USCCB in Washington and also appeared April 4 in his weekly column online in the Los Angeles archdiocesan news platform, Angelus, along with some short reflections he offered in the hope "they can help us to enter into these mysteries of our redemption in a new and meaningful way."

-- Confession: "It will not be possible for many of us to go to confession this year. But we need to remember that, in extreme circumstances, the church's ancient tradition allows us to receive forgiveness for our sins even apart from sacramental confession. This beautiful grace, called 'perfect contrition,' is explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 1452). During this Holy Week, I urge you to examine your conscience and return to God with your whole heart."

-- Holy Week at home: "Although we cannot celebrate the sacred mysteries in our churches this year, I urge each of you to make your homes a 'domestic church.' This ancient Christian ideal resonates even more profoundly in this time of quarantine and "sheltering at home."

He suggested that for parents of young children, "this can be a moment of grace, a time for bearing witness to the importance of the faith in your lives." He urged parents to pray with their children, especially the rosary; to read the Bible; and to watch the livestream of the Mass as a family.

"In every home, we can spiritually enter into these mysteries of our salvation through prayer and reading the Scriptures for each day of Holy Week."

-- Spiritual Communion: While right now it is not possible to celebrate the church's mysteries of the faith in churches, he said, the faithful can untie themselves spiritually to God and "to one another through the internet and broadcast media.

"As you participate in these 'virtual' liturgies, remember that you are not a 'viewer' passively watching a performance. In these liturgies, Jesus Christ is truly present as he is in every Mass. With the priest, you are offering your sacrifice of praise to the living God, and we worship with the angels and the whole communion of saints," he said. "Especially in this Holy Week, I urge you to join yourself to the sacrifice of the Mass by making a simple act of spiritual Communion. Tell the Lord that you love him more than anything in life and that you long to receive him in your heart, even if you cannot receive him in his body, blood, soul, and divinity."

Archbishop Gomez also asked Catholics to pray offer their personal sufferings for those who are sick with the coronavirus and for all those in health care ministries who are risking their lives to take care of them.

"Pray for all their families and loved ones. Pray for those who are suffering from the loss of their jobs and businesses, and all those who fear for their future. Pray for the many men and women who are risking their health to provide essential services in this time of need."

The archbishop also reminded Catholics of an invitation announced a week earlier to join him on Good Friday, April 10, to pray the Litany of the Sacred Heart at noon (EDT).

A livestream of the Litany of the Sacred Heart with Archbishop Gomez will be available on the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' website: www.lacatholics.org and on the USCCB Facebook page: www.facebook.com/usccb. The text of Litany of the Sacred Heart can be found in English and Spanish on the Los Angeles archdiocesan website.

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Editor's Note: Archbishop Gomez's column with his Holy Week message can be found online in English and Spanish under "Voices"/"New World of Faith" on the Angelus website, https://angelusnews.com.

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