Pandemic

Dear beloved in Christ,

With all my heart I wish you and all whom you love and hold dear an Easter Season filled with stories of the real power of Jesus Christ, Risen and Glorified.  Yes!—the real power! As we begin to unwrap those chocolate Easter eggs (and I must confess, I already snuck a few the other day), that we fill our gatherings with stories of how we experienced the victory of Jesus’ Cross and Resurrection, through this Lent of all Lents. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed our lives and the lives of so many. There is great sadness for those who have become sick and for those who have died. There are those who have lost their jobs; many who fear the future, the terrible feelings of isolation; and the greater fatigue of family life which has become more intense. 

With you, I carry the pain of not being able to visit certain members of my family; but for me the loss extends also to you, my parish family. My life as a spiritual father makes no sense without you. I miss celebrating the Mass with you, the joyful celebrations of baptisms and marriages, pastoral visits to the sick and homebound, visits to the school and being with our children in faith formation, house blessings, and the many opportunities of fellowship. How deeply I miss you!

Where is the presence and power of Christ in all this?  When we find ourselves in the midst of a crisis, our faith can be tested and the emotions we feel, like fear or frustration, can make it hard for us to see clearly. In my own prayer and reflections on all of this, a common depiction of the Resurrection of Jesus came to my mind—perhaps you have seen it. The painting or icon I refer to shows Jesus standing victorious over the tomb. He is wrapped in radiant white linens, holding a staff in the shape of a cross, and still bears the wounds from his death in his hands, feet, and side. Death did not win!—it did not have the last word!

My dear friends, I think this is a great image for us, not only to prayerfully ponder, but even more to claim as our real hope and continual joy. Around this image of Christ, I see you and so many already gathered around him. I see this victory in all those who will not allow fear to win, but who perseveringly take their fear to the cross, where a peaceful trust may rise again and again.  We see this risen power bursting forth in so many acts of love, caring, and generosity which says: we will not allow the fear and pain of the present and of an unknown future to give way to hoarding, withdrawal, and selfishness. No! With Jesus, and like Jesus at the moment of His passion and death, we will use this time to unleash love, to continue to be generous in the ways we can.

How easy it is to become discouraged in times like this, especially before the real possibility of this extending into the summer. But again, I am hearing from many of you and from others of the victory of Hope. You are not allowing discouragement or hopelessness to win, but rather taking hold of the hand of Jesus Christ, Risen and Glorified, a hundred times a day. A passage from St. Paul comes to mind: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time as not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rm 8:18). 

Let us continue to stand victorious with Christ through the momentary trials of this passing world. All the more important, therefore, are all our prayers—even the short little ones, our times of adoration at home or in the chapel, our spiritual communions, our immersion in the Word of God—everything that helps us to cling to Christ, to stay close to Him.

Be assured of my special prayers for you, during this time. I am so deeply grateful for yours—God bless you. And let’s continue to pray for the many everyday heroes we see at the center of this pandemic: so many doctors, nurses, hospital staff, emergency technicians, researchers, and so many other people of good will.

I am so deeply grateful that we are together in the Heart of Christ, united in the Holy Spirit, and lovingly wrapped in the prayers of the Saints. St. Peter, pray for us.

With my love and prayers,

Fr. Steven

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