Dear Friends in Christ:
A Holy Christmas, Joyous Epiphany and Happy New Year! May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, bless you and all your loved ones! May the love of Jesus shine in your homes throughout this New Year!
A year ago on the Feast of the Epiphany, we blessed pieces of chalk for parishioners to take home and mark the doors of their homes. With the ‘chalking of the doors’, we prayed that Christ, our Lord would bless our homes in 2020. Little did we know how much we would be needing those blessings. We prayed and God heard our prayers. Lest we forget, the early estimates of fatalities of COVID-19 in the U.S. were in the millions! We were told by the experts that we did not have enough ventilators and that a vaccine would take years to develop! At different points during the summer, it looked like violence in the streets and social upheaval were going to be permanent features of our society. Was 2020 a tragic year filled with hardships? Without a doubt. But even in the midst of these struggles, Our Lord never abandoned us. Jesus was with us throughout 2020 and continues to bless us with his presence in this New Year.
To me, one of the greatest sadness was to see the spiritual and emotional pain suffered by so many. It was extremely sad to see so many Christians give into fear and anxiety and become judgmental and angry. These are not the traits of Christian discipleship. On the positive side (and that is much more than the negative side!) it was edifying to see how many kept the faith in this time of trial. So many offered spiritual sacrifices and strove to grow in holiness and prayer. When faced with anxiety or fear or the temptation of anger, they turned to the Lord. I have been edified by how many during this time of testing turned to the Lord by coming to confession for the grace of forgiveness and strength. It has been a particular blessing to see how many parishioners have come and spent countless hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. This was especially true during that period when we were not allowed to offer public Masses. The church was never empty. It was a blessing to see those elderly parishioners who were confined at home and could not get out but yet continually prayed for our parish. As the government eased restrictions and allowed churches to re-open for public worship, I have been continually amazed at the presence of so many of our young families! Although we could not have the nursery open and Youth Formation did not begin until November, we have had tons of kids at Mass every week!
Although we are not yet done with the pandemic, we must look forward with hope and confidence! I am proposing that we avoid two scenarios and embrace a third. The two scenarios that I suggest that we avoid are – going back to “Old Normal” and embracing uncritically the “New Normal”. The pandemic has shown us and has illuminated for us that the “old normal” had its flaws. Living lives that were too busy and filled with too many things that were not good for us. The pandemic showed us how to appreciate some things that we took for granted which we have now grown to appreciate. Going back to the “Old Normal” in every respect is not such a great idea. Likewise, we should not be so willing to go along with everything in many of the proposals for the “New Normal”. There are some dangers here as well. If the “new normal” excludes God, personal responsibility, virtue, integrity and mutual respect, we are in for bigger troubles than a virus. Here too the pandemic has shown us some ugly things than can develop. The shaming and judging of people that has taken place during this time has been a sad reflection on us. As has been our needless worry, fear and suspicions. We need to leave all of that behind and not make it part of the “New Normal”.
My proposal is that as we move forward, we do so with faith-filled trust in Jesus! That we re-commit ourselves to Him and to what is truly good – prayer, virtue, family, integrity, and optimism. Or as the Scriptures remind us, Faith, Hope and Love! Specifically, that we examine our lives and each day seek to put GOD FIRST! First in our personal lives, first in our family lives and first in our professional and social/civic lives. As disciples and members of the Catholic Church, let us begin this new year to live our faith in a joyful and exuberant way. As we move ahead, let us look at two questions “In what new ways can I and my family live our Catholic faith more genuinely and authentically?” and “With whom can I share the joy of my Catholic faith?”
As St. Thomas Aquinas beautifully phrases it, “to love is to will the good of another.” This should be the hallmark of our New Normal and New Year.
In pace Christi,