While we are well into the Easter season, for many of us it might seem like a continuation of Lent — days filled with sacrifice and penance rather than celebration. As the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects impact the world around us, we turn our attention to our Risen Lord and his sacred, merciful heart.
On March 29, I consecrated our diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the patron of our cathedral. In that consecration, I prayed, that we would “give and consecrate to the Sacred Heart our diocese, parishes, communities and families, lives and actions, our pains and suffering so that we may be delivered from the current pestilence to live always to honor, love and glorify the Sacred Heart.”
We were reminded during Lent and Holy Week, as we are whenever we celebrate Mass, that God’s mercy was most manifested at the moment of Christ’s crucifixion. Our sins were nailed to the cross where mercy was fully realized. That was God’s redeeming act for us, his full immersion in our human condition, even to death.
In the prayer of consecration, I asked the Sacred Heart to turn away the contagion that surrounds us, and to turn us toward him and our brothers and sisters who are suffering. I continued, “We hope for all things from your mercy and generosity.”
That mercy we seek — that mercy we need! — was poured from the heart of Jesus and is always available to us — especially in our times of need, like the time in which we are living.
This past Sunday we observed Divine Mercy Sunday. The Divine Mercy Chaplet is an extension of our devotion to the Sacred Heart. The conclusion of the chaplet beautifully summarizes the impact God’s mercy can have on our lives when we open our hearts to the Sacred Heart:
“Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.”
At a time of disruption to our families, routines, homes, work and peace of mind, and as our worries about what the future holds may seem to multiply, we are encouraged to turn to and rely upon the mercy of God.
Pope Francis has emphasized the importance of divine assistance and why the message of mercy is comforting to us. This is consistent with his episcopacy and papacy as the words of his motto, taken from Matthew 9:9-13, refer to Jesus’ merciful gaze as he called Matthew to follow him.
As we may be overwhelmed by statistics about the spread of and deaths caused by COVID-19, as we continue to ask “What if…,” as we contemplate the future, we know, as people of faith, that we will move beyond this. We have no idea what post-coronavirus life will be like, but of one thing we can be certain: God will continue to be with us.
Let us take to heart advice Pope Francis tweeted nearly five years ago for it is spiritually sound during this tenuous time: “Amid so many problems, even grave, may we not lose our hope in the infinite mercy of God.”