We continue in this extraordinary Easter season, and as this time of quarantine and stay-at-home orders stretches on, it is frustrating for all of us.

We want our lives to return to normal. And we especially want to go back to church and the sacraments. I know I speak for every priest when I say we miss you. We are united in prayer, but we long for the comfort of just being together in the same church, praying and sharing our faith.

I am grateful to be connected to you through the internet, to pray with you and to offer the Mass. Every Mass unites heaven and earth, and every celebration of the Eucharist makes present the gift that Jesus made of his life for each one of us and for the life of the world.

But a “virtual Mass” is still virtual. It can be a beautiful way to be connected when there is nothing else we can do. But it is not the same as seeing one another face-to-face, drawn together in the fellowship of Christ.

Obviously, the deepest questions raised by this pandemic are about God and his designs. Where is he and what is he saying to us in this moment — what is he saying to his Church, to the nations of the world, to each of us in our own personal circumstances?

In my own reflections I see God calling us, in a most dramatic way, to realize how much we need him, how we cannot live without him. But I also see God calling us to a deeper sense of solidarity, to realize that we are responsible for one another, that we depend on one another and we have to take care of one another.

In the first century of Christianity — in fact, it was during one of the plagues in the Roman Empire — nonbelievers marveled at the charity and compassion of Christians. “See how they love one another,” they would say.

And it has been beautiful for me to witness so many of you showing your love for God by serving your neighbors in this time of crisis.

Although our Catholic school buildings are closed, we are still educating tens of thousands of young people every day through distance learning. And we are feeding thousands of poor children every day, offering “grab and go” meals at our schools. In the past month alone, we provided more than 300,000 meals. 

And although our church buildings are closed, our parishes remain “open.” We are helping people in our food pantries, and giving financial assistance to our neighbors who need food, clothing, and shelter.

Our Hearts to Serve hotline is assisting hundreds of people seeking everything from help paying their bills to mental health resources.

We are seeing the beautiful network of compassion that we have in the Church, with agencies like the Knights of Columbus, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Catholic Charities, and our archdiocesan Catholic Communication Collaboration (C3) program, all coming together to serve. 

We are helping the elderly and the sick. We are giving financial support to community groups like Habitat for Humanity that are providing housing and medical care to the homeless.

Those of us who cannot serve with our hands are serving with our hearts — praying and offering our sacrifices and sufferings for others.

It is inspiring and beautiful. Through the witness of your love, our neighbors can see the presence of the risen Lord, even in this time of affliction and adversity.

It is hard, but in this time, I think God is asking us to share in the insecurities and deprivations that define ordinary life for millions of people in nations around the world. We are being forced to do without what most of our brothers and sisters never had to begin with. That is something we should pray about and reflect on.

We are all struggling right now because we cannot have access to public Mass or the sacraments. This is a hard cross to bear. But maybe God is asking us to share in the sufferings of the millions of Catholics who live under regimes that repress or persecute the faith. These brothers and sisters of ours hunger and thirst for the sacraments and cannot receive them. This is their daily reality. And their pain will not end when this pandemic passes.

So, let us intensify our prayers and sacrifices for them, and let us continue to love one another in this time when faith is tested. Let us join our sufferings to Our Lord’s passion in his living Body, his Church. Let us offer our sufferings for every person who is bearing greater burdens than we are.

Pray for me and I will pray for you.

And may our Blessed Mother Mary continue to intercede for us and help us to love and to serve, and to bring the mercy and peace of her Son to our neighbors.