By Bishop Gerald Barnes
I have heard more than once, and from many different voices, that it will be good to put 2020 in our rearview mirror.
Indeed, it would be an understatement to say that it has been a difficult year. Unprecedented, uncertain and, for the more than 300,000 people (as of this writing) in our country who have died from COVID-19 and their loved ones, it has been a tragic year. I continue to pray for the eternal rest of these brothers and sisters. As people of faith, we carry in solidarity the pain of these deaths, which continue to mount each day.
We acknowledge other hardships in 2020 caused by the pandemic – lost jobs, difficulty meeting financial obligations, challenges for families around distance learning, social isolation for our young people, missing our gatherings with extended family and friends.
In our society, 2020 also brought us an acrimonious general election, painful acts of racism and frightening manifestations of our changing climate.
So, as we prepare to welcome a new year, yes, we might say we are glad to turn the calendar to 2021. And in our next breath we might utter Alexander Pope’s famous line, “hope springs eternal.”
The dawning of a new year is always an occasion to embrace hope. We set goals, make resolutions, and we recommit ourselves to our faith. We rekindle hope in our hearts with a forward view. Siempre Adelante.
It will be more important than ever for us to carry that hope into 2021. God remains at our side. He has walked with us through this time of trial and He will lead us to healing and recovery if we continue to trust in Him.
The early months of 2021 are likely to give us cause for both hope and concern. We are living through a significant spike in the coronavirus in many of our communities due to the winter weather and the rise in social interactions outside of our homes that have been related to seasonal celebrations. These rising numbers frighten us, and they have led to further state and local restrictions in attempt to slow the spread of the virus. This is a source of anger and frustration for some. While it is important for us to examine the state and county orders and raise any questions or concerns that we may have, I believe public officials are acting in a genuine effort to protect the people from harm. That is why our Diocese has enjoyed a cooperative and mutually supportive relationship with both Riverside and San Bernardino counties in responding to the challenges of the pandemic. Let us pray that our government leaders make just decisions that honor life and health.
The beginning of 2021 brings hope in the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. We give thanks for the work of those who have developed the vaccines and, as importantly, we pray that these life-saving medicines will be distributed efficiently and justly. My brother Bishops of California and I have stated that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are morally suitable and that the Catholic faithful should make every effort to receive the vaccine. Our Diocese will be working with San Bernardino and Riverside county public health officials to make the vaccine available in some of our Catholic facilities.
In my years as your Bishop, I have made a point of emphasizing that we are a people of hope. It is central to our outlook as a community of faith. We are to kindle that hope and do everything with the strength that God gives us to spread that hope. It is the punctuation of our Diocesan Vision, …”so that people’s lives are filled with HOPE.”
Hope is not always easy. And we are coming through such a time. I am grateful to God for the resilience he has given to you, the people of our Diocese, over these past 12 months. You have been faithful, you have been creative, and you have kept your hope.
Please be assured of my prayers for you, for our local Church and for all those brothers and sisters in our communities in this coming year of our Lord 2021. Our New Year’s Resolution? Keep hope alive!