Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Here we are, in the beginning of February in the year 2021 with Lent just around the bend. How will our Mardi Gras experiences look this year? It was one of the last “normal” days of 2020 for me. I was able to celebrate that day with my sisters and Mercy associates at St. Bernardine Home. For their protection I have not been able to be there since. The following day I received ashes on my forehead alone with the rest of the Christian world. (Yes, not just Catholics ‘do’ ashes on Ash Wednesday) But by the Third Sunday of Lent our bishop was encouraging us to refrain from attending Mass in person and by the Fourth Sunday our Churches were closed. Something that had never happened as far as we could remember, ever! I remember thinking, ‘well, this gives new meaning to our Lenten fast!” And thought how wonderful Easter would be when we could be back in our parishes to celebrate and receive Eucharist once again. It was a Holy Week and Easter like no other. And yet it was a time that was rich in the presence or our Suffering Jesus and our Risen Savior. Roman 8:38-39 came immediately to my heart: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord“.
It was not Easter, but June last year before we were able to return to our parishes in a limited capacity, and for some of us with health issues we have still not been able to return. We have joined virtually thanks to Livestream and Facebook Live and Videos and have stayed connected because it is who we are. A pandemic cannot take us away from our God. It can separate us physically from one another but it cannot separate us from our Christian communities because we are joined by so much more than the physical. Some of us have been sick, and some of our brothers and sisters have died. We have mourned them but have not been able to celebrate their lives as we would have in 2019. But still, we have celebrated their lives because that is who we are.
Sometimes it is easy to focus on all the things we have missed or given up and are continuing to do so, because sisters and brothers, this pandemic is not over. But because of whose we are, I believe our God in inviting us to focus on all we have received in this past year. Take some time to look at the way you have grown through the challenges. Find the gifts, maybe hidden deeply, but still there in the midst of the lock down, slow down, stay home, wear masks, keep distance and wash your hands. The gifts are there is the creative ways we have discovered to be in relationship even from a distance. The gifts are there in the ways we have reached out to one another through phone calls, and Facetime and emails and cards and letters and drive by celebrations. The gifts are there in the ways our parishes have continued to minister in the midst of it all and provide prayer and care for all of us. The gifts are there. So let this be our prayer in this year 2021… Open our eyes, our ears and our hearts Lord that we may see your face, and hear your voice, and love like you, no matter what this year will bring as we continue this journey together through Lent and beyond. Because that is who we are!