Two steps forward, one step back! It almost sounds like a dance move. I think we’ve all had the experience at some point in our lives when we had everything all planned out, but then plans change, things get cancelled or postponed, and suddenly we look around and your world looks nothing like what you had planned. In any other year, I think those experiences would be surprising, but this year, it’s almost become normal.
Originally this week, we had planned to layout a new section at Mt. Carmel Cemetery. However, as we were about to meet, we looked outside, only to see a nice coating of snow on the ground. So we’ve had to postpone that plotting for a few weeks until everyone can get together again.
Then, I got a phone call letting me know that there was a COVID outbreak at Northern Cambria Elementary, so we had to postpone our First Communion originally scheduled for this Sunday until next Sunday.
With all that we’ve been through over the last year, these things can feel like minor inconveniences, as we’re all getting used to the world where people have to cancel due to quarantine, things feel like they’re always being rescheduled, and so many things that used to be family gathering huge social moments we feel like we’re simply happy if they can happen somehow.
I was talking to a number of people this week and I can almost feel the anxiety in the air as things begin to re-open, as we begin to transition back out of crisis into normalcy. As more and more people are being vaccinated and returning to a functioning world, I think we’re beginning to come to terms with just how much has been lost in this last year. We’re allowing ourselves the space to really grieve those losses.
I’m looking at my calendar in the upcoming months and we’re starting to have the memorial services for those who passed during the thick of COVID back in January and February, but the family wanted to wait to celebrate the funeral mass and burial. I think we all realize from our own families how difficult it is to deal with the loss of a family member, and how much consolation the closure of the funeral liturgies can bring for a family. How much more difficult now, as families have had to wait for months for those events to happen. Please keep those families in your prayers as we walk through all of these funerals and memorial services in the next few weeks and months.
Still, it’s not just the ultimate loss of life that we’re grieving. For so many of our young people, this year has disrupted much of their whole world. Imagine all of the Graduations, Proms, Confirmations, Holy First Communions, and other events that haven’t been able to happen, and if they did, the family who would have been invited weren’t able to make it to those events. Even now, as we had to push our first communion back a week, I’m so thankful that our parents have been understanding, but it’s still hard, realizing that before last year, whole families would have made plans to travel, just to be able to be present for these events. Please remember our young people and be kind to them as they struggle to work through the fact that even as they are struggling with virtual learning, they’ve missed so many events they may have been looking forward to.
As we open too, I hear from so many who are now struggling, having been isolated for a year, just with the basic dynamics of starting to get together again. As we’re slowly able to gather, it’s amazing how many times feathers are ruffled unintentionally as we all begin to learn again some of those social dynamics that so many of us haven’t been using in the last year. It’s going to take a lot of patience as we work back into our new normal.
Yet, this weekend, as we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, we realize that as we work through all of these struggles, we have someone who cares for us, loves us, and watches over us through them. He’s right there with us, looking out for us, ready to seek us out when we’re lost, ready to guide us home. The trouble is, in order to be willing to be found, sometimes we have to realize that we’re lost. Admitting that we’re lost can be a scary prospect. It means we’re struggling, we’re in trouble, we need help, and we can’t help ourselves. It means we’re going to have to put our trust in someone bigger than ourselves.
So this week, as we begin to move out of this crisis, I’d invite all of us to really reflect on how we’ve found ourselves lost and grieving in this past year. There is real hurt and loss there. Yet, we have a God who cares, who will walk through all of that loss and hurt right along with us. We have a God who not only understands loss, he was willing to sacrifice himself, so that he might rise again and that we might live forever with him in eternity, that we might be, in a word, saved.
God Bless You,
Father Matthew Baum is the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.