My dear members of Emmanuel,


May the gift of God’s comfort, peace, and the blessings of health be yours.


In just a short while the season of Lent will be upon us once more. It will come to us this season a year into a kind of global reset. You know as well as I that some priorities from before the outbreak of COVID suddenly seemed much smaller; others have gained an even deeper importance.

Almost, from any point of view or life experience, this past year has been one for the books and the season of Lent about to unfold for our benefit will most likely follow the same path. We may never again have a Lenten season that affords us so much time to give to the Lord. We can choose to use that time wisely and well. Along with extra time to pray , the current pandemic also offers a heightened perspective of things. We always begin Lent with the words “remember that you come from dust and to dust shall we return…” None of us could have predicted how quickly we would become so focused on how fragile and how finite human life is. Perhaps a deep spiritual lesson of the coronavirus!

The challenge imposed by the spreading virus also contains a built-in penance or two or three that no one asked for and has caused some of our faithful brothers and sisters to wonder out loud if they still have to give up what they were planning to do for Lent! Those answers are up to each of you of course – but I offer you the point that this Lent like last will be different from normal, but reflect for a moment that the penitential qualities tied to this health crisis – suffering, giving up and solitude are in fact symbolic of Lent’s spiritual practice of self-denial. We do self-denial so we can do things like pray a bit more. Who could deny that it is a good thing for us to pray, especially for the needs of those who are so sick and living in great fear, our health care workers who remain on the front lines of this disease and for one another. My friends, these weeks and months (past as well as those to come) offer challenges we’ve never had to face. Our routines (including the ones surrounding our spiritual lives) are disrupted. We worry about ourselves and our loved ones. Some of us may need to fight the virus itself. Yet Lent remains what it has always been a time to get in better touch with God’s personal love for us and do our best to prepare our focus on Easter, life and resurrection. Finally a wonderful opportunity awaits for us to reflect on how we live as a community, protect each other from illness and be part of a solution to a global health crisis.

If we take all of that seriously we should see that we are not simply sitting by, letting life happen for us, but that we area an active part of life living to our fullest potential.

As a new season in the life of the church begins, I wish I could lay out for you this divine plan as to when this part of our life can begin to resemble what is “normal”, if that word even means anything to us any more. The truth is that today I/we cannot do that. I have heard your frustration and your angst. I am right there with you. We will move forward as expeditiously as we humanly can once the word is given I promise you.

As we wait in Lent may this very real penance of separation help strengthen the bonds of affection that exist between and among us.



Robert   +