Dear Friends in Christ:
As you can tell by the green vestments, we are back to “Ordinary Time” at least on the liturgical calendar! When we can get back to ordinary and normal elsewhere in our lives is still unknown and is a cause for us to continue to take to prayer. Because of the holidays and everything else, I have had to write my bulletin letters far in advance. This letter is being written more than a week before you will read it. There is a lot happening and things seem to change by the day. In some of my recent conversations with people, I have mentioned that 2020 was a year of grace and blessings. That’s right – your eyes are not deceiving you, I said “2020 was a year of grace and blessings!” There is no doubt that the past year was filled with many hardships, tragedies and challenges. At the same time, when we open our eyes, hearts and minds, we can see that 2020 was also a year filled with graces and blessings from God. In fact, many of the graces and blessings of this past year were in direct response to the challenges and tragedies that we have had to face.
There is a TV commercial for a dating service that has Satan dating a woman named “Two Oh Two Oh” or as she calls herself, “2020”. They are a couple enamored with each other and cause havoc for everyone else. An imaginative and cute ad. I wonder though, how many people actually see the past year as a “Year of Satan”, an annus horribilis? Lest we forget, 2020 was 2020 A.D. – Anno Domini – The Year of the Lord. Before we start throwing ourselves huge pity parties, we would do well to keep things in perspective. While the COVID-19 pandemic has tragically killed 1.9 million people worldwide so far, the Spanish Flu of 1918 killed more than 50 million! While COVID-19 has sadly infected more than 88 million people worldwide or about 1.1% of the world’s population, the Spanish Flu infected 500 million or about a third of the world’s population at the time. In this one aspect, while we mourn the dead and care for the sick, we can see or should see how greatly blessed we have been. While many have struggled financially and emotionally during this crisis, most of us continue to have food on the table, homes to live in and jobs to do. These things we should not take for granted. Early on we were deeply concerned with shortages of everything from toilet paper to beef and bread to hand sanitizer. Today, there are not as many complaints since the store shelves are pretty full. Sadly, there have been many businesses closed and many people out of work, but most people do have jobs and the majority who lost jobs have since found employment. There is more to do and we will be coping with the recovery from COVID-19 for a long time, but we can’t escape the fact that there were many more blessings in 2020 than tragedies.
One of the biggest blessings was in how people were concerned for their neighbors during this crisis. Here at SJV, we have not been able to resume our Social Services Ministries but we have collected more than 14,000 lbs. of groceries in our food drives for those in need in our city. We also had one of the largest blood drives in the city resulting in numerous lives saved. Despite not being able to have our bazaar, our parish has sacrificed and continued to support those parishes, schools and charitable and service organizations that depended on our financial support. Our sacrifices have enabled thousands of others to receive help during these challenging times. Our parish homebuilding missions continued during the pandemic and even expanded to help those living in impoverished situations to have decent housing. When faced with shutdowns and obstacles, our parish continued to share the gospel of Jesus by finding new ways to spread the Good News. Our Youth and Adult Formation departments became ZOOM experts! Parishioner volunteers in our Social Services Ministries and Pastoral Care departments have made thousands of ‘care calls” reaching out to many of our seniors and those who are shut in. When public masses were suspended in March, April and May, we were able to keep the church open for prayer, offering spiritual strength and solace while allowing people to come and be in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Because we have not been allowed to have full capacity at church, we have added extra masses and confession times to accommodate social distancing and to help people stay connected to the Lord through the sacraments.
Sorry, I cannot accept (and neither should you) that 2020 was a “Year of Satan” or an annus horribilis. It was a Year of Our Lord, a year of grace and blessings. COVID-19 does not get to claim the year. Rather, we claim the year 2020 for Christ as we do this new year of 2021. One of the joys of being a Catholic is that we rejoice and live in the victory of Jesus! We know that Satan was defeated 2000 years ago on a hill in Jerusalem and remains defeated for all eternity. The greatest blessing of all in 2020 was that Jesus was with us in the worst moments and in the best moments and in every moment in between.
And 2021? Jesus isn’t going anywhere. He is still with us. Always. Amen. Alleluia!
In pace Christi,