By Bishop Oscar Cantú
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, April 5, 2020
The Valley Catholic – April 11, 2020
We gather this evening in prayer. Our gathering is virtual – each of you in your homes, and Fr. Hao and I here at this Cathedral.
We gather virtually because of the crisis we are experiencing of the Coronavirus. But I tell you that what is not virtual is the power of our prayer. I tell you that what is not virtual is the presence of Jesus in this Altar, the presence of Jesus in your homes, in your hearts, in your minds, and with your families.
This evening we have begun Holy Week. This most holy of times in the year we recall Jesus entering Jerusalem, and we too come to the New Jerusalem with our prayers – our prayers for a relief from suffering, our prayers for our families, for our communities, for our healthcare workers, for so many throughout the world who are suffering because of this crisis. And we raise a voice of prayer—prayer to God. A God who always hears the cry of the poor, the cry of those who suffer, and we raise our voice tonight.
We raise our voice, especially with three specific voices. Three powerful voices that Jesus listens too most intently: with the voice of St. Joseph, of San José—our Patron Saint in this Diocese. The voice of St. Clare, Patron of also this Diocese, as our County is named for her. And the voice of Mary, Mary of Nazareth, and in a special way, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
St. Joseph: because he cared for and protected the Holy Family. He is the Patron of the Universal Church and watches over us. Tonight, we ask him for his powerful intercession for us and for the church throughout the World, for those who suffer. We ask him to protect us, to protect his family.
St. Clare: because she was able to ward off invaders by displaying Jesus in the monstrance. Thus, she is often displayed with the monstrance in her hands, just as we also displayed Jesus this evening in the monstrance. May we have the faith and the strength of prayer of St. Clare to ward off this invasion of a crisis, of the tiniest of invaders, a virus, which has disrupted our lives terribly and brought so much suffering throughout the world. We ask St. Clare to pray with us tonight and to intercede for us – to intercede for the world.
Our Lady of Guadalupe: because when she rhetorically asked St. Juan Diego why he was concerned, and if he was worried for his sick uncle, she answered, “Am I not here who am your mother? I will take care of you.” And so, we ask the Blessed Mother to care for us, to care for those who are sick, and to care for those who care for the sick. For our heroic and tireless medical professionals, we raise a voice of prayer tonight.
The reading from the scriptures this evening from the book of Lamentations presents to us two realities. First is the reality of suffering – the suffering in the world that tempts us to think that God has abandoned us. Suffering is very real. Millions of people throughout the world are experiencing suffering now – those who have lost loved ones, those who are ill, those who care for them, those who have lost jobs, those who lost a sense of security. But, the second reality that the book of Lamentation presents to us tonight is the reality of God’s faithfulness. God promises that he will be faithful to his people, and that he will never abandon us. That promise inspires hope.
“Mercy is never exhausted,” says Jeremiah. Mercy, and compassion, from our God is never spent, never exhausted. What do we ask for tonight? We ask for His presence, His healing mercy, and His compassion to console those who suffer.
“It is good to hope in silence for the Lord’s deliverance,” says Jeremiah. We hope for the Lord’s deliverance of our world, and of our communities. We do so with a cry of prayer, with our hearts laid bare before him. Tonight, we hope in silence and prayer.
Today, on Passion Sunday, we recall Jesus entering Jerusalem. He rode humbly on a donkey. The King, who came into the world, came in humility, and was confident of his power.
Tonight, you and I, those of us who gather virtually on this night… we ride into the New Jerusalem. We ride into the New Jerusalem in the presence of our God with our prayers, and with our cries for deliverance, and with our cries for compassion and mercy. And we do so humbly riding on the backs, and with the assistance, of St. Joseph, St. Clare, and of Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Some have described this virus as an invisible invader, so small that we cannot see it. But it has disrupted our lives and brought society to its knees. And since we are on our knees, we raise our hearts and glance upward to our God.
There was someone else who was very small and yet, tremendously powerful. When Mary appeared 500 years ago to St. Juan Diego in what is now México City, she appeared in the image as pregnant and awaiting the birth of the Savior the Son of God. Remember that Jesus also started out small within the womb, yet even when he was tiny, he had tremendous power. Early in Mary’s pregnancy, she traveled a long distance to greet her cousin Elizabeth, who was also pregnant with John the Baptist. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, “the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” So powerful was the tiny presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb, that John the Baptist in the womb recognized his hidden presence. So too was the tiny presence of Jesus in the womb of Mary who appeared to St. Juan Diego that it moved the hearts of millions of people throughout the land of México 500 years ago to bring them to the Christian faith.
We turn to Jesus in this small and humble presence, in the appearance of bread. And we ask him to exert his power to bring healing to our world. To bring relief to those who suffer. That his power may extend throughout the world – from Italy to China, from Vietnam to the Philippines, from Korea to Japan, from France to Africa, from the Middle East to South America, from India to California and into our homes, and into our hearts.
Video of the Evening Prayer is available at Bishop Cantú’s Holy Week Prayer during the Coronavirus