A Reason for Hope
In the midst of this worldwide pandemic, do you have hope? “Always be ready to give an explanation for your hope,” says St. Peter.
In the suffering of the sick crowd, in the perplexity of those who do not attend church, in the fear of the unemployed, in the anger of those who feel they have lost control of their own lives, in the confusion of students, in the economic crisis, the sadness of corruption, in the lack of leadership in government, in the division when we need unity—in the midst of it all this—should I be ready to give a reason for my HOPE?
One of the great problems of this kind of enemy – the coronavirus – is that it is invisible, we cannot see or hear it, and therefore we do not know how to get away from it. At a time when we need to be together, fighting this invisible enemy has required isolation.
We all need to remember that this crisis is an excellent opportunity for us to change, to improve ourselves and the world. Let us not lose this opportunity. No matter how bad things are, Jesus is still with us.
Right now, many people feel disconnected and abandoned by God. The Scriptures reveal we are not alone because the Holy Spirit is with us. Jesus promises the coming of the Paraclete: Comforter, Counselor, Teacher, Guide, Assistant, Advocate.
This coming Sunday, May 31, we will celebrate Pentecost. I hope and pray that this year will be a NEW PENTECOST!
With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were sent to Evangelize the world. Aware of the impact that Jesus’ departure would have on the nascent Church, John the Evangelist develops a theology of assurance based upon Jesus’ promise of his abiding presence with them. He explains the manner in which Jesus would continue to be with those who accept His invitation.
Reflecting on Caring for Those in Need
Caring with Christ-like love for those in need is the sixth activity point from my Pastoral Letter: Reflections on Five Years – Continuing the Mission. Jesus’ fundamental command for us is to love God and to love others as He has loved us. Our love for Him, as He explained in a conversation with St. Peter after the Resurrection, is shown in how we care for those He entrusts to us (Jn 21:15-19). He takes personally the way we love those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, on the move, imprisoned, or otherwise in need (Matthew 25:31-46). The real fruit of faith is always charity, and we can never love too much.
The Diocese of Fall River has been known for generations for its care for those in difficult circumstances. Over the last 79 years, faithful of the Diocese of Fall River have donated through the Catholic Charities Appeal more than a staggering $150 million to care for the poor and vulnerable.
That generosity continues today, as Catholics here sacrifice more than many considerably bigger dioceses. Many parishes similarly have vibrant St. Vincent de Paul Society Chapters. The number of volunteers deeply committed to the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in our Diocese has impressed me even more than the enormous financial sacrifices people make.
In these challenging times with unprecedented unemployment rates, the need to care for our brothers and sisters is ever more crucial. Love for God and others compels us to be even more efficient and effective with our resources. That’s one of the reasons why I have prioritized the renewal of Catholic Social Services (CSS), which spearheads the Diocese’s charitable outreach. We have expanded CSS’ Board of Directors, hired a new Director and some new staff, worked to expand the recruitment and training of volunteers, and are looking at our headquarters and other buildings to ensure that they can meet the demands of today and tomorrow.
During the Last Supper, Jesus told us that everyone will know we are His disciples by the love we have for each other (Jn 13:35). The Church at her best is a communion of Good Samaritans, and love for our neighbors in southeastern Massachusetts will always be among our top priorities. I am so grateful for all of those who use their time, talents, and financial resources to help those less fortunate.
Catholic Appeal launches June 1st
As we consider helping our neighbors, navigating through a terrible storm for the past few months, I would like to take a moment to bring attention to the upcoming annual Catholic Appeal, “See All the People,” which runs from June 1 — July 31.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a glimpse of what life is like for our sick, homebound, and homeless neighbors who lack regular access to the full sacramental life of the Church. It has robbed households of the dignity of stable employment. These days of quarantine have also provided the opportunity to understand firsthand the importance of the weekly televised Mass, food pantries and soup kitchens, emergency housing and homeless shelters, and the tireless work of our hospital chaplains.
Your gift, no matter what size, extends God’s life-changing love across any divide. As an added incentive this year, parishes and collaboratives will receive .50 on every dollar raised when they surpass a 5% increase over what they raised during last year’s Appeal. Not only will this provide additional funds for those most in need, but it is also an opportunity to assist our parishes at this critical time.
Please consider these words from St. Paul, as you prayerfully discern your pledge when the campaign launches on June 1st. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).
Each of you, your families, and your parish remain always in my prayers, especially as we prepare this week to resume public Masses this Pentecost weekend.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha