A pastor in Dallas has apologized for conducting a Good Friday service with multiple attendees, calling it a “mistake.”
But before you assume that he intentionally disobeyed restrictions on public gatherings, read the rest of the story.
Father Jacek Nowak of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church was conducting a private mass for himself, his brother, and a few family friends. The service was conducted mostly in Polish.
The problem was, the door to the church was left open during the day to allow individuals to pray. When the mass began, there were only five people present. However, others came in during the service. “It was my fault,” the priest said later. “I should have closed the church.”
The fact that people would come in from the street to a private mass being conducted primarily in Polish speaks to the spiritual hunger in our hearts during these days of crisis. Easter Sunday services conducted online and in church parking lots are further examples.
What makes this story different
One way the Lord is redeeming this crisis is by using it to remind us of our mortality and need for help outside ourselves. This virus shows us that all our technological sophistication and medical advances together are not enough to prevent our deaths from coronavirus or something else. At best, they can only prolong our lives.
But it is still “appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
There is a God-shaped emptiness in each of us, as Pascal noted. We try to fill this spiritual emptiness with material things, but like the wrong pieces to a jigsaw puzzle, they don’t fit. Our souls are still hungry for what we were made to need: “As the deer pants for flowing streams, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1–2).
C. S. Lewis: “God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human engine to run on himself. He himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on.”
The good news is that, while churches may be closed to public gatherings, our Lord is not. His throne is as close as your knees.
And we don’t need open sanctuaries to invite people to our Lord since we are the church. The internet allows us to do what Paul did in person: “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house” (Acts 20:20).
If we will ask the Holy Spirit to lead us to someone who needs our word of spiritual encouragement, he will always answer our prayer and use our compassion for God’s glory.
St. Augustine spoke for himself and for us all: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”