By Most Reverend Gerald R. Barnes
This well-known acronym may have crossed our minds as we witness the incredible chain of events that have taken place in this year of 2020. As people of faith, who believe in an all-powerful and loving God, what are we to make of this? How are we to respond?
Let’s review what has transpired since March, when I last wrote in these pages.
A global pandemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives and drastically altered the course of daily lives; confining us mostly to our homes, closing schools, workplaces and churches, and compelling us to follow unprecedented health and safety precautions.
More tragic killing of African-Americans by police, reopening the painful wound of racism that continues to plague our nation, leading to massive street protests that have, at times, turned violent.
A presidential campaign that has seen the bitter political polarization and uncivil national dialogue reach new heights.
Frightening extremes in our natural environment, bringing us sweltering heat, destructive wildfires and choking air quality.
These events have brought new depth to our understanding of words like chaos, uncertainty and change.
It brings to mind the moment in Mark’s Gospel when the Lord and his disciples cross the stormy sea. The waves are breaking over the boat and filling it with water, a chaotic scene that fills many of them with uncertainty and fear. They wake Jesus, who is sleeping peacefully in the stern. “…we are perishing,” they tell him.
Have you had that thought, that fear, this year? Where is God in this?
As this Gospel plays out, Jesus awakens and calms the storm. His companions are both relieved and awestruck. He asks, “why are you terrified. Do you not yet have faith?”
Just as the disciples were understandably afraid of perishing at sea, we are afraid COVID-19 will claim our health, our family, our job, our education and our ability to practice our faith. We are afraid of the wildfires and the social unrest. We are afraid life will never be the same again.
So, as we ask, WWJD in these perilous times, we can look at what he did in Mark’s Gospel; remaining calm amid the chaos, knowing that his Father would not abandon him and his companions. Let us picture, in our moments of anxiety, Jesus sleeping calmly in the boat, and then calming our storms. My friends, the Lord continues to accompany us in these difficult times, and our faith in His presence will carry us through this. We can help ourselves with frequent prayer and meditation on this reality. We can also share it with those in our family and our community who are struggling with despair and fear.
This year has been difficult but, in many ways, we have responded with faith and hope. Our parishes have adapted with technology to stay connected and new liturgical settings to continue to provide the Sacraments in a safe manner. Our young are continuing in their faith journey, receiving the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion. We welcomed 10 new permanent deacons to our diocese in August. These liturgies have lifted me, and I have seen how they have fortified the faith of the Confirmandi, First Communicants, Deacons and their families. There is a realization that these expressions of our Catholic faith are perhaps more important than they have ever been. They remind us again who we are and to Whom we belong.
I am grateful also for the efforts of so many in diocesan, parish and Catholic school ministry who have carried forth in new ways to serve the people. I also offer my thanks to all the lay faithful for their patience, their prayers and their words and deeds in response to what I have often called “a year like no other.”
Let us continue to pray for one another and support each other through this uncertain year, knowing that our God walks with us. Let us bring to Him our fears, our questions, and our gratitude for the many blessings He continues to provide us.
May God bless and keep you in these stormy times… always forward – Siempre Adelante.