I am delighted to write to you knowing that at this time it is not possible to physically meet with you at St. George Parish. It is, however, a great honor to be connected online with all of you. From the first week St. George was on lockdown, I began feeling that it would be a long time before we meet again. In speaking with our Parish Staff, we realized how much we are missing every one of you. It is like being separated from a great friend in a time when we need one another the most.
This has been for me an unexpected event in the four years since coming to Canada. We cannot predict the future but, for me it has been a time to reflect on the meaning of life, faith, and hope. The only assurance I have is that the Grace of God gives me strength needed to go forward in my ministry by taking care of myself and as much as possible to also protect others. And let me say to you a big THANK YOU! For praying for us and with us during our on-line celebrations. We feel the strength coming from you during this time. I discovered this when I realized how successfully personal tasks are completed during this time.
My first response from the beginning of the pandemic was being aware of what was happening and to react reasonably. Starting in the second half of March, the outline of my journey changed completely. I am certain that each one of us have had to overcome the initial shock of adjusting to this pandemic. This is a normal human reaction in facing a worldwide crisis. Bur our faith in God and the strength that comes from the guidance of the Holy Spirit makes us strong and hopeful in facing this kind of situation.
The Lenten Season and celebrating the Easter Season has been very meaningful for me even though we could not attend Church for our Liturgical Celebrations. During my moments of prayer and reflection each day, presiding at Masses, and setting up for live-streaming from the control room, there came to mind two images that gave me the strength needed to face this unexpected challenge.
The first was the image of the first disciples of Jesus, and how uncertain they were to His teachings, especially when He openly announced His passion, death, and resurrection. The Apostle Peter was the first to complain and his shocking reaction was to state that no such thing would happen. Jesus’ resolution was clear and firm. This image reminded me in this uncertain time that only through faith and hope in God our Father, can we face any challenge and vital situation. We, therefore, must take care of our human and spiritual life and our health.
The other image represents what I experienced during Holy Week and Easter time. It is the image of the Israelites passing through the Red Sea with the guidance of Moses. This in part is the spirituality of my Religious Community, the Missionary Fraternity of Mary. Being in Exodus means for my ministry, doing the will of God in times of isolation and in the midst of desolation for many people. We have all become familiar with the meaning of isolation during COVID-19. The only assurance one has during this difficult time is exactly what happened to the people of Israel. For the Israelites in the desert the guidance they were given was the tablets of the law(Ten Commandments). Again, in the Gospel reading of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the guidance of God was Jesus explaining the Scriptures to the disciples. Jesus was announced as the One who has to come, to save and redeem those who believe in God as Father. The Scriptures today provides for us the path to follow guided by Jesus.
For Christians, the joy of an intimate relationship with Jesus allows us to never give up, even in times of isolation and suffering. The first Christians endured persecution, imprisonment, and martyrdom. The joy of Easter should not be abandoned, on the contrary, to all of us connected via social media, the strength and assurance of being alive and the hope of a new beginning is much like the People of Israel looking forward to the promised land. They, as you know, took 40 years to get there and the first Christian community between the Resurrection of Jesus and Pentecost, 50 days. They discovered the joy of the Risen Lord and began to build the Church of God, the community of believers to which we belong.
In the midst of this pandemic, being at St. George Parish, has been a blessing for me. And I am so thankful to those parishioners who have sent me messages through social media, phone calls, and emails. I am certain these kind gestures are giving me the assurance of communion in faith and union in Christ Jesus. I would like to be in contact with each one of you personally, but it is impossible due to the large number of parishioners. So, please, consider these words I am writing, as well as, all the live-streamed Masses and online meetings as my personal friendly greeting to each one of you.
I am in contact with family and friends in my home country Guatemala, and in Italy with my former parishioners and friends. They are doing well, thanks to God. Staying connected with them is an experience of joy and a way to take care of one another.
My strength and confidence going forward is to meet with all of you again at St. George, in the Lord. I am sure we will become stronger in faith and hope if we maintain spiritual communion as a Christian community. Mary Mother of God intercede for us, and may her maternal care and kindness be with all of us. May the guidance of the Holy Spirit unite us and help us to reach out to others as faithful disciples.
Be assured of my prayers and thoughts to all of you. Stay safe and healthy. God bless you!!