‘O Come, Divine Healer’ — Bishop Tylka’s Holy Hour reflection in pandemic time

Bishop Tylka lifts the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament during a Holy Hour of diocesan prayer in a time of pandemic last December at St. Mary's Cathedral. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is the full text of Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka’s reflection given during “O Come, Divine Healer,” a Holy Hour of Diocesan Prayer in this Pandemic Time at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria on Dec. 17.  The Holy Hour, which was attended by about 100 people at the cathedral — including Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, diocesan seminarians, and hundreds more via livestream — has been archived for viewing and continued prayer on the Diocese of Peoria’s Facebook site.

The reflection followed this Scripture reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, proclaimed by seminarian Deacon Nic Wilson:

“Brothers and sisters: Therefore, since we  have been justified by faith,  we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we baost in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast in our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5)

“Afflictions. Endurance. Proven character. Hope. Rooted in Faith, given in love through the Holy Spirit, and longing for the glory of God.”

My sisters and brothers,

We gather this evening in an intentional moment of prayer during this difficult time when our world is wracked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Who would or could have imagined that our lives would have been turned so upside down?

We are suffering many afflictions and some of these trials have had the most severe consequences. We nightly hear the latest updates:

  • More than 74 million people infected worldwide, with 1,655,265 deaths globally as of noon today.
  • In the United States alone, more than 17 million confirmed cases and more than 308,000 deaths.
  • Since March, 57.4 million claims of unemployment and more than 800,000 claims just last week.
  • Schools have been pushed to remote learning, shops have closed, take-out only at many eating establishments.
  • Hospitals are at the brink. There are more than 100,000 Americans hospitalized at this very moment.
  • Families are separated. Travel is restricted. Birthdays and holidays have had to be reimagined.
  • Mass and worship have been severely hampered. We’ve had changes within our own style of prayer.
  • Pandemic fatigue is rampant. Doctors, nurses, nursing home caregivers, paramedics, so many frontline workers are exhausted and overwhelmed.
  • So many are suffering — physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

“Afflictions. Endurance. Proven character. Hope. Rooted in faith, given in love through the Holy Spirit, longing for the glory of God.”

These sad statistics only scratch the surface of what we are all going through. And for many it is only when the numbers come too close to home that our truest awareness of so many people’s plights has become real to us.

I know that among our own clergy in the Diocese of Peoria the recent passing of Msgr. Richard Soseman to the coronavirus is one of those moments that hits too close to home. Yet again, this reality has impacted so many families, so many communities, and so many lives.

“Whatever your affliction, we are with you. And you are with us,” Coadjutor Bishop Tylka assured those suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

And so we come together to pray.

It is certainly not as if this is our first moment of prayer during the pandemic. God has been hearing the cry of his people in all of our moments of prayer. But this is a moment, a time to be with one another, and to offer prayerful support in an intentional way. To be reminded that we are truly not alone, that we are interceding for so many as they face the daily struggles of life — especially life during the pandemic.

You may not be here physically in this cathedral, but you are certainly here in our thoughts and much more in our hearts.

Whatever your affliction, we are with you. And you are with us.

This particular moment, this Advent night, is not just about the bad statistics. For it is a time filled with hope, with love, and with faith. In this holy season for Christians preparing to celebrate Christmas we encounter the voice of the prophet who speaks of rough roads being made straight, of valleys being filled in, of mountains being leveled. We hear, too, that a Light will come, a Light to brighten the darkness of the world.

And the message from St. Paul chosen for us tonight is reassuring.

“Afflictions. Endurance. Proven character. Hope. Rooted in faith, given in love through the Holy Spirit, and longing for the glory of God.”

You see, brothers and sisters, while this year may seem as if it has been the longest year, and while it may seem that our afflictions are insurmountable, these are but passing moments on the way to the glory of God.

Our afflictions will have a lasting impact. Our endurance in this race has been tested and tried, but we have pressed on with many fits and starts, with some failures, but more success.

Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka kneels in prayer before the exposed Blessed Sacrament during the Holy Hour of Prayer in the Time of Pandemic on Dec. 17 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

We have learned that new reality of wearing masks and social distancing, better and consistent hand washing . . .  you name it, we are enduring it — not for our sake, but out of compassion and concern for our brothers and sisters, our fellow citizens, our world.

Our character as a resilient, generous, courageous people has been proven. Look at the doctors, the nurses, the scientists, the government leaders, the clergy and religious leaders, the store clerks, the truck drivers, the teachers, the students, the parents, the grandparents, the food pantry workers . . . the list goes on and on of people who have — and are — stepping up in ways that only months ago were not imagined, and certainly less appreciated.

But these trials which have been – and are being – endured have shown that as gold is tested in fire, we can and do shine forth a light in the darkness.

All of this is rooted in our faith, manifested in love, prompted in the Holy Spirit, which brings hope.

While we may wish for a quick end to the pandemic and a return to normalcy, we hope for a new normal where we live with a deeper awareness of the fragility of life and a greater respect for the sacredness of each other.

“Afflictions. Endurance. Proven character. Hope. Rooted in faith, given in love through the Holy Spirit, longing for the glory of God.”

With gratitude for so many sacrifices of so many, we pray: “O Come, O Come Divine Healer. Bring light in this moment of darkness.”

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