On the feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14, 2020), Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS, issued a pastoral letter to the people of the Archdiocese of San Antonio entitled Transformed by Hope, Let Us Rebuild Our Tomorrow! Its release came as the United States and much of the world was entering into a second and far deadlier wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw rates of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths surge to their highest levels. December would bring promising developments, especially the release and distribution of vaccines, but the long, dark winter predicted by many experts is just beginning to give way to spring. We are living the paschal mystery personally, collectively, and ecclesially.
Archbishop Gustavo writes: “People’s faith and even their very idea of God may be challenged when their world seems to crumble. Fear blocks reason and prevents action, it makes people unable to acknowledge truth and appreciate beauty; it banishes love. Since ancient times, people have tried to make sense of suffering and chaos by creating their own images of gods. We are all tempted, one way or another, to create a god in our own image and likeness, not realizing that we cannot save ourselves” (16).
Questions arise: Are we being punished? Is it the end of the world? Where is God in this? Archbishop Gustavo in turn ask, “Discernment of the present situation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit may pose more relevant inquiries: How does our faith truly relate to this, to help us find peace and recover joy? How do God’s infinite mercy and unlimited power manifest themselves now? How can we allow ourselves to be encountered by God? How can we bring God’s consolation to others? How can COVID-19 be turned into an opportunity for our world to be better than before?”
Archbishop Gustavo casts what we are living through in a paschal light. “Once we have encountered the Lord, we will realize that our suffering matters so much to Jesus that he ‘participates in our pain to overcome it,’ and to draw good out of evil, which only he can do. Christ, more than anyone, cares about us” (18). The call of this moment is to open ourselves in solidarity and love to the dying and rising of the body of Christ, the Church, and that of all humanity, our brothers and sisters.
As Archbishop Gustavo says, “Giving his life for us, Jesus says to each one: ‘Your life is worth so much to me, that to save it I give all of myself.” As we are liberated by the Holy Spirit to participate in the mission of Christ, not only are we made collaborators, but we are transformed into members of Christ’s family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, and each other’s keepers.
The extraordinary goodness and self-giving of so many — first responders, healthcare workers, and families of the stricken and the dead — call forth generosity and solidarity from us. “The life that God’s love begets in us is meant to be life-giving for those around us and for the whole world” (40).
The end result of living through such a challenging time need not be death and devastation. Archbishop Gustavo declares: “The world will never be the same, but that can be a good thing. Putting this time of trial to work can produce a harvest of more faith, hope, and love in our communities. In a way, the harm that the virus does is more than overturned by the good done by love. And along the path of love, all the other virtues are planted and bloom like a garden in spring.” May Easter find us again in a garden, renewed!