Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
After a long and difficult year, we will greet 2021 with particular joy. We are anxious to put aside the “stay-at-home” orders, the social distance restrictions, and the masks that prevent us from seeing the smiles of our loved ones. More importantly, we are anxious to “return to normal”– recovering from economic hardships, travelling again, living without the fear of disease hanging over us. Of course, for many among us, the pandemic has left lasting scars. Some are living with the after-effects of their battle with the disease. Approximately 340,000 of our brothers and sisters in this country have died from COVID-19, leaving their families to mourn – often without a chance to be with their loved one as they passed. Yes, 2020 is a year we want to leave behind.
Yet this pandemic has also brought to light those who are most caring and compassionate among us – the health care workers who saw death on every shift and still continued to offer gentle care; the neighbors who looked out for one another by sharing food and providing assistance; the teachers who taught online, in person, and by every creative means in between; and essential workers who went about their daily tasks to keep us fed and provide necessary services – even at the risk of their own health. This past year has revealed to us some of the worst and some of the best of the human condition.
While the new COVID-19 vaccines offer us the promise of life beyond the virus. I suggest to you that we should not be too eager to “return to normal.” Our normal society, as you may recall, was too often self-absorbed, harsh and unforgiving. The economic disparities revealed in the pandemic were the result of years of greed and injustice. The “cancel culture” was born of an unwillingness to see each and every human person as a beloved child of God. In short, we should want to enter into a “new normal” – one free from the dangers of the coronavirus, but one in which we carry with us the lessons of kindness and compassion learned in this past year. We should want not only healing for our bodies, but healing for our culture, our entire world as well.
That healing is offered to us only in the light and the peace of Jesus Christ. On the cross, blood and water – love, mercy and grace – flowed from the side of our crucified Lord. We must never lose sight of the sacrifice of the cross, of the self-emtpying love of Jesus. May 2021 be the year when we open our hearts once again to the love of God. May we be forever changed by that love. I pray that you and your family may enjoy God’s blessings in this new year. May you renew your encounter with Jesus Christ and welcome him again into your hearts and into your lives.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts. Forever.
Most Reverend Robert W. Marshall, Jr.
Bishop of Alexandria