Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In addition to hiking, my other main hobby is doing a little gardening. If you’re like me, this time of year is usually a time of anticipation and excitement as gardeners everywhere begin fulfilling plans and making the more immediate preparations for spring planting.
As news of the pandemic began to become more serious, and as it become more likely we would have to cancel Masses and liturgies, I suddenly began to reflect even more on what was going on in the natural world around us. Seeds begun indoors have sprouted and look wonderfully healthy. Daffodils and tulips have either made their appearance or are about to put on their finest show. My lemon and lime trees have burst into fragrant bloom, while a pair of bluebirds were checking out a birdhouse behind the rectory to see if it is up to snuff. (Apparently, you need more than holy ground to convince bluebirds to nest!) A bold little cardinal continues to peck at his reflection in a brass plate on the sacristy door, still frustrated that the “other bird” won’t fly away. Rain falls softly and the sun shines warmly on the earth after its winter hiatus.
It suddenly dawned on me that everything around us continues to go on oblivious to the fear that has overcome us. We – as human animals – who have so completely transformed the world around us, we who seem to be masters of our domain have suddenly been overcome by something we can’t even see. Something so tiny that not even a normal microscope can bring it into focus. We as a species have been driven to fear, hoarding, panic buying, and other irrational behavior by an enemy without a brain.
Today was supposed to be Laetare Sunday – Rejoice Sunday. As a people of faith, it still is, of course. The official opening words of the Mass are, “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her, all you who love her” (Isaiah 66:10). We are reminded by St. Paul, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (8:28). The Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Father’s Only-begotten Son is proof not only that God will bring unexpected joy and immense good from suffering, but that He Himself has come all the way down in humility to experience suffering with us. We cannot say to God, “You don’t understand.” God, in fact, knows perfectly.
So the world continues to move on even while we suffer; and yet this is not the end. “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). There is no joy without suffering. There is no life without death. God has brought life from death. Rejoice, friends. Use this time to grow ever closer to your only Savior, Jesus Christ, “who loved us and handed Himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God” (Eph. 5:2).
Rejoicing with you in hope even now,