The Grace of the Resurrection Breaks Through Quarantines and Death

Archbishop Aquila

The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead was a shock. The idea that he would truly rise from the dead seemed far from the minds of the disciples and the Roman and Jewish authorities. Even though Jesus had told his disciples that he would rise on the third day, they did not believe it. The women who went to the tomb expected to find a body. The disciples locked themselves away fearing persecution. The Jews and Romans thought they had finally dealt with an apparent threat to their power. And it was amidst this atmosphere of fear and defeat that Jesus rose from the dead.

The days following the crucifixion and death of Jesus were an unusual and uncertain time for the early Church, somewhat like these days of quarantine and isolation for us now. As we celebrate Easter in this environment, we can discover spiritual growth in ways that we might have missed in previous years and be reminded of Easter’s eternal impact on us.

Before Jesus rose from the dead, he went through several experiences of isolation. First came the experience of embracing the Father’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane while the apostles fell asleep. Then he was betrayed by Judas, followed by his condemnation for blasphemy in front of the Sanhedrin. His Passion was filled with moments of desolation, isolation and pain, culminating in his death on the cross.

Throughout the Scriptures we see how God uses experiences of solitude to cause a revival in a person’s faith, such as Elijah in the desert, David fleeing Saul, Joseph in prison in Egypt or Paul being held in Rome. In each of these stories, God used the circumstances to help each person see their own sinfulness and repent of it, drawing good out of their suffering and bringing them closer to himself.

During his extraordinary Urbi et Orbi address and blessing on March 27, Pope Francis reflected on the story of the disciples being frightened by a storm while on the Sea of Galilee and compared it to the coronavirus epidemic:

“The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. … The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly ‘save’ us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.”

When the disciples were being tossed about on the waves, it was  Jesus waking up that saved them. Even more importantly, we are saved from Hell and our sins through Jesus’ death on the Cross and his Resurrection. As Pope Francis reminds us, “…with God life never dies.” Whether it is part of God’s plan for us to come through the coronavirus epidemic or to go to meet him, this holds true. And this is the Good News of Easter — we are saved through Jesus’ death and Resurrection! In our encounter with Jesus, we place our complete trust in him as our Lord and also our Savior, who chooses to become our brother and friend!

Once again, Pope Francis beautifully expresses this truth. “The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love” (March 27, 2020 Urbi et Orbi address).

So in spite of being confined and participating in the Easter celebration from a distance this year, the life-changing impact of our participation in Christ’s death and Resurrection, through our Baptism, is the same. My sisters and brothers, receive in your hearts the truth that you are beloved daughters and sons of the Father in Jesus!

After Jesus rose from the dead, the Apostles were still in hiding and fearful, but Christ appeared to them on several occasions, saying, “Peace be with you.” During these uncertain times, we too, should pray for the outpouring of Holy Spirit and the peace he brings, so that when this contagion passes we are spiritually strengthened by our time in isolation and prepared to give witness to the ends of the earth like the disciples.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:19-20).

COMING UP: Church and state partner to carry out corporal works of mercy during pandemic and beyond

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In times of great need and crisis, we find strength in unity and collaboration, and amid the coronavirus pandemic, this truth remains within the Archdiocese of Denver.

For many years, the Archdiocese of Denver and local Colorado government officials have found ways to work together toward common goals and better serve the people of Colorado, which often includes carrying out corporal works of mercy such as feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. And through the COVID-19 pandemic, these partnerships continue to be a crucial part of Colorado’s and the Church’s response to those in need.

The City of Denver and the Archdiocese of Denver have a history of partnering to support people in need. During the pandemic, Mayor Michael B. Hancock and his administration have worked with the archdiocese to safeguard the homeless population and extend testing for COVID-19 to communities at higher risk of struggling with the virus.

“These types of true collaborative relationships really make the difference because you can call on your partners [and] you have established relationships that are built on trust and built on true engagement and true focus on a mutually agreed upon mission,” Mayor Hancock told the Denver Catholic. “Catholic Charities and the archdiocese have been just tremendous partners over the years with us.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver told the Denver Catholic that “the Catholic Church is motivated to care for the poor and needy by Christ’s commandment to love one another as he loved us.

“The coronavirus pandemic,” he added, “has highlighted this important work and underscored the essential role the Catholic Church plays in fostering a society that upholds the God-given dignity of every person.

“It has been a blessing to be able to work with the City of Denver over many years to serve these vulnerable populations.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and the Archdiocese of Denver have partnered with Mayor Michael Hancock and the City of Denver in the past to better serve people in need, and they’ve continued those collaborative efforts through the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Catholic Charities)

Recently, on July 10 and July 23, Mayor Hancock and the City of Denver hosted events in partnership with Ascension Catholic Parish in Montbello to provide testing for COVID-19 and a mobile food pantry to the local community.

“We have been looking for opportunities to be in the communities, to do the testing, to meet people where they are. And we recognize that Latinos and African-Americans in particular have been most vulnerable to this virus,” Mayor Hancock said. “We needed to really just make sure we took the opportunities for testing to those communities.”

Then, on Aug. 6, Ascension hosted another event in collaboration with the City of Denver where the mayor’s office gave away free backpacks with school supplies, healthy food baskets, baby products, feminine hygiene products and more.

“I am very thankful for Mayor Hancock’s collaboration to help the people of Montbello,” said Father Dan Norick, pastor of Ascension Parish. “I also thank God for the people in Montbello who are caring for each other in these difficult times. May Jesus be praised!”

Mayor Hancock said that hosting these events at Ascension Parish made sense because of the established relationship the City of Denver and the Archdiocese of Denver have developed over the years.

“When you’re looking for who you partner with during these opportunities, you turn to who’s most familiar with you and who you’ve had a trusting collaboration with,” he said. “And it just so happens the archdiocese and the parish there have been the ones that we’ve worked with over the years. So it was very natural. It’s a place where people are familiar and a place they trust.”

It’s not only during the pandemic that this partnership has been fruitful, though. A strong partnership between Samaritan House and the city has existed for quite some time, and this relationship has borne much fruit over the years. Samaritan House strives to be more than a just a homeless shelter, providing education, life skills classes and one-on-one support for its residents to empower them to break free from the cycle of poverty and support themselves independently.

In August 2017, the City of Denver and Catholic Charities of Denver cut the ribbon on the first all-women’s shelter in the city. Called Samaritan House Women’s Shelter, it follows Samaritan House’s established model of helping those experiencing hard times find a way out of poverty and ultimately, bring hope to their lives. Each night, it offers 225 beds for women who are in need of immediate shelter.

Back in April, Catholic Charities teamed up with the City of Denver and took the lead on an auxiliary women’s shelter set up at the Denver Coliseum. (Photo by Catholic Charities)

Back in April, in response to the pandemic and out of a need to maintain social distancing protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the City of Denver and Catholic Charities of Denver partnered to set up the Denver Coliseum as a 24/7 auxiliary emergency women’s shelter that’s that was able to accommodate up to 300 women. Catholic Charities staff took the lead at the shelter with full support from the City of Denver. The auxiliary shelter has since returned to the regular women’s shelter facility, but this collaboration between the city and Catholic Charities was crucial as cases of COVID-19 climbed in April.

“When the pandemic hit, Catholic Charities had to find a way to social distance the ladies in its Women’s Emergency Shelter,” said Mike Sinnett, Vice President of Shelters and Community Outreach. “We also had to provide them 24/7 care to honor the governor’s Stay-at-Home order and triage for the virus. Working with the City of Denver staff, we came together as a shelter community and obtained the use of the Denver Coliseum downtown. We were able to better provide social distancing, 24/7 shelter with three meals a day and other amenities, including showers and case management.

“We believe this effort with the city protected our most vulnerable community and helped prevent the spread of the virus. But more importantly, we made it safer for women experiencing homelessness during this pandemic.”

Featured image: Father Dan Norick hands out supplies during a community giveaway event hosted at Ascension Catholic Parish in Montbello in conjunction with the City of Denver. (Photo provided)