| By Father Dwight Ezop

Uphold and encourage one another

I am writing this column on Thursday, March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Yesterday, March 18, our diocese entered into a period of time during which all public liturgical celebrations have been suspended in order to do what we can to safeguard people from exposure to the coronavirus. On a certain level, I feel as though we have all slowly stepped out of reality and into a science fiction novel. Even as nations and governments continue to formulate their response to this crisis, the work of our parishes and the life of faith continues on even in a time of uncertainty.

As pastor of a mid-Michigan parish with a small school, it has been quite a journey in a few short days to help transition our school and parish into a virtual world. Using the great gifts of technology that God has helped us to develop, we are able to engage our students of all ages so that they can learn at home. On the church side of the equation, we have been able to offer daily Mass via livestream video so that even though we cannot join together in person as the Body of Christ, we can still be joined together in prayer with and for one another. In all these efforts, my hope is that there is a sense of peace and comfort for the people of our parish community and the many others who are able to access these new ways of living as Church during this time of concern and uncertainty.

As I celebrated a streaming Mass for the children of our parish school and their families, the Gospel for the day had Jesus remind us, “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength,” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mk 12:28-31)

As with so many other times in life, God has managed to send just the right words at just the right time to be a source of encouragement and strength. With so much uncertainty at the moment, we can turn to God’s constant love for us and draw strength and consolation. As we turn to God’s ever-constant love for us to find the encouragement we need, we can grow in love for God. That love can then be revealed in how we uphold and encourage one another during this challenging time. This period of time provides us with an opportunity to hold fast to our Christianity – the gift of our faith and how that faith can be lived in the daily choices we make to show and share Christ’s love in the world. Through words of encouragement and reassurance, we can reach out to stay in touch with one another via phone, email or text message. Making sure to check on the well-being of our older brothers and sisters and undertaking safe steps to protect them and meet their needs as we are able is one possible way to be Christians with and for one another. Making the time to pray, lifting up the needs of the sick, the safety of health care workers and emergency personnel, and the work of medical researchers who are diligently seeking to develop effective responses to the coronavirus is a tangible way that we can bring our faith to bear. Taking the time to regularly pray individually or as a family can provide some shape and form to days that might otherwise be lacking in regular structure.

Above all else, we can recall Jesus’ words of reassurance, “Do not be afraid, I am with you always.” In other times of uncertainty and fear, these words have brought great comfort. May our words and actions as people of faith reveal the fearless love of God in our world and how that love can be lived daily in new and unanticipated ways. And so, our journey in FAITH continues.