Wed. Oct 21st, 2020

Many people across our archdiocese, Catholics, Christians of other denominations, members of other faiths, and people of good will are praying for God’s protection from COVID-19 and for an end to this pandemic. This is natural, this is understandable, this is good, and this is undoubtedly pleasing to God.
At the same time, I ask that we not limit our prayer to asking God for protection and deliverance. Let us also pray asking God to help us to use this time to grow closer to Him. Our prayers should not only focus on this time, namely, deliver us from illness, but should also focus on how we use this time, namely, to become more the person God calls us to be.
Our prayers can often be a request of God that he put things back the way they were. The truth is, however, that this pandemic will change us. Life does not stand still and it does not go backwards. Life always goes forward. Whether these challenging times change us for the better or for the worse depend upon us.
Our prayers cannot be to ask God to put everything back the way it was. Our prayers are often exactly that: “God make everything go in reverse. God, however, leads us forward.” Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He is The Way and the way goes forward.
Struggles and tragedies, like the one we are facing during this contagion, have a way of getting our attention and potentially drawing us closer to God. However, this is not automatic. We have to allow ourselves to be humbled by the circumstances of life, renew our trust in God and invite Him to change us for the better. Otherwise, these same tragedies may easily make us cynical and bitter and leading us to resent God if not to reject Him completely.
I remember after weathering Hurricane Katrina as the Bishop of Biloxi, people locally and from around the country would ask me, “Bishop, do you think this tragedy will bring people closer to God?” I learned to respond, “Well, yes … and no.” I have seen many tragic things in my lifetime. At times, I have seen people respond by drawing closer to God. At other times, however, I have seen people grow further apart from God. It all depends on how we use the time of testing.
Consequently, as your brother in the Lord, I feel compelled to ask all of us to humble ourselves before the only one who can completely heal our hearts and our common home here in the Archdiocese of Mobile — God. We just celebrated Easter, God’s triumph over sin and death. Let us not be afraid to take this unique time as an opportunity to call upon the mercy and grace of God to triumph over this pandemic and all that threatens to draw us apart from God. Let us ask Him to take this cross we bear and transform it by His mercy into the peace and joy that the Resurrected One has proven He can bring about. He can turn crosses into empty tombs. Let us pray that God may newly pour out His peace and joy over the all the world and in a particular way over us here in the southern half of Alabama.
We need to pray for God’s mercy, to pray that He will have mercy on us and on the whole world. Then we need to examine in our hearts the ways that we have strayed from God. I have no idea why God is allowing this pandemic to affect our world. However, I do know it is an opportunity for us to slow down, realize what really matters in life and turn towards God with new fervor.
We often do not choose how we suffer or when we suffer. We do choose what we do with it. This pandemic may be a time to endure, or a time to pray for God’s protection, but it can also be a time to grow, to change for the better. This is our choice. May we not squander this time.

By Editor

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