It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Throughout this Easter season we journey with each other through the Acts of the Apostles as we experience the early Church. We hear about the struggles of the apostles who come to understand that the message of Christ was not only for the Jewish people, but also for the Gentiles. We learn of how they find unity through, with and in Christ by discussions of concerns and how they communicate the love of God by their many gifts brought together and transcended by the Holy Spirit. Most importantly we come to understand through their own experience the gift of the Eucharist and while they provide for the physical nourishment of the many, the Eucharist becomes the source and summit of their daily living. Even in a climate of persecution, they join together to pray and receive this Gift that they may be sustained to be Christ to those whom they meet and seek.
Today, in 2021, the Acts of the Apostles speaks intimately to me as we have been living in a period of a pandemic, but also see and experience the persecution within the world at large; the poor among us, the injustices to people of race, color or creed; the disregard for the gift of life through abortion or bullying or murder or human trafficking; the disparity within our own families.
God chose us! These beautiful words pour from the heart of St. John. God appoints us to go and bear fruit that will remain. Who is this fruit? It is Christ among us, Emmanuel! It is our reception of the Eucharist that we receive Christ to be Christ among all the people. What an extraordinary offering God chose us to be!
Early in 2020, I dispensed with the obligation to participate physically in the celebration of Mass for all the people of the Diocese of Orlando. I did this because there was great uncertainty about COVID-19 and the grave concern about how gatherings could cause the transmission of the disease. Now, as people are being vaccinated and there is a greater feeling of well-being, some of you are asking that I dispense with the dispensation.
Let me ask you these questions of discernment: 1) Are you a baptized Catholic? 2) Are you leaving your home to grocery shop, visit with family and friends, or participate in other activities?
If your answer to these questions is yes, then I am confused about why my dispensation is preventing you from participating physically in the celebration of Mass.
You do not need my permission to come to receive Jesus. God chose you to do so! I pray that your desire to draw near to God, to go and bear fruit that will remain, compels you to come to participate physically in the celebration of Mass to be nourished by the bread of heaven to fulfill this appointment.
If you are health fragile, that is if you are sick or homebound, please call your pastor to let him know of your situation. While you may not be able to participate in the celebration of Mass physically, we want to pray with you and for you. It is also important for you to receive Jesus and we are working to reinstate the ministry to the sick so that you are fortified with the Gift of the Eucharist.
May the Eucharist be the source that we might love one another as Jesus commands us.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend John Noonan
Bishop of Orlando