We have just passed the one-year mark since the lockdowns imposed by authorities to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
These have been long and difficult months, filled with trauma and sorrow, and still there is much uncertainty about the future. It will take years to fully understand the damage caused by this pandemic and our society’s response.
But as we enter into our second Holy Week in the time of the coronavirus, we are starting to see signs of hope.
With my brother bishops and priests throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, I am looking forward to welcoming many new Catholics to the Church at Eastertime, and I’m also looking forward to a busy confirmation season.
Recently at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, I was glad to be able to celebrate the annual Christian Service Awards Masses, honoring our high school students. I was also privileged to celebrate a nationally livestreamed Mass for the solemnity of St. Joseph in this Year of St. Joseph. In the same Mass, we also marked the start of the special year that Pope Francis has dedicated to the joy of family love.
Throughout this Lent, I’ve been trying to pray and reflect more on the figure of St. Joseph, as his story is told in the early pages of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. His quiet hope and courage in the face of adversity, his trust in God’s providence, his simple dedication to doing God’s will — these are virtues I think all of us need to develop at this moment in our lives.
Again I encourage you all to read Pope Francis’ beautiful and practical letter for this Year of St. Joseph. From St. Joseph’s example, the Holy Father writes, we learn that “our lives can be miraculously reborn if we find the courage to live them in accordance with the Gospel.”
This is the mystery of God that we enter into during Holy Week and Easter. The way of the cross leads to the Resurrection. Our God is the God of the living, not of the dead. The promise of Easter is that we can be reborn, we can become a new creation in Jesus Christ.
The Scriptures tell us that God keeps kindness toward us for a thousand generations if we love him and keep his commandments. That means that God never stops loving us, never stops caring for us and guiding us. We can live according to the Gospel, build our life on the solid rock of this foundation, because we know we can trust in his saving love.
In the cross, we see the certainty of God’s saving love. One of the saints said: “While the world changes, the cross stands firm.” This is the lesson we have been learning in this pandemic, in all our disappointments and losses, in all the plans we have been forced to change or abandon.
When everything is stripped away, there is still the cross — there remains Jesus Christ, who died and rose from the dead, who gave his life for each one of us and now invites us to give our lives to him and for him.
And in this moment, this is the message that our neighbors need to hear. All of us in the Church, each in our own way, must simply proclaim Christ. Not as a set of ideas or teachings. Not as a figure from the distant past. But as the living God who loves us so much that he has entered into our history and become one of us — to speak to us and suffer for us and to become the way for our life.
The world that will emerge out of this pandemic, we don’t know what shape it will take, but we know that it will need the witness of believers. It will need each one of us, reborn and renewed in the mystery of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.
In these months and years ahead, it is absolutely essential that we make Jesus Christ the center of our lives — to live from him and for him, to think about him, talk about him, and to know that the meaning of our lives is found in being united to him and following his will for us.
Pray for me this week, and I will pray for you.
And in these holiest of weeks, let us ask the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary, and let us keep vigil with her at the foot of the cross.
May she help us to open our hearts to embrace the beautiful truth — that Christ died and rose from the dead! And he did that out of love for you and for me.