By Father Casey

It’s a strange sort of anniversary, isn’t it. One year ago this week, the pandemic arrived in Dallas and we began to shelter-in-place. One year ago this week, the streets and highways became quiet, professional sports stopped their seasons, and many of us made fearful forays to emptied grocery stores for supplies. One year ago this week, we conducted our first livestreamed worship service at Transfiguration (If I remember correctly, it was a bumpy beginning!). One year ago this week, we were all trying so hard not to be afraid.

What a year it’s been. I marvel at our scientific community and what they’ve accomplished in the unprecedented creation of vaccines that have already been administered to millions. I stand in awe at medical professionals – all those frontline doctors, nurses, and technicians – and how they’ve kept going through wave after wave of infections. And I am filled with gratitude for all the manifestations of generosity and compassion from neighbors, friends, parishioners, and even perfect strangers. Jesus says the Kingdom of God is near, and when I’ve been able to see through the clouds of anxiety, I caught many glimpses of its goodness and blessings.

In a lovely bit of timing, just a few weeks ago NASA landed a spacecraft on Mars with the newest exploratory rover named Perseverance. The name was actually given to the rover last March, before we could even imagine what the year would bring. NASA officials selected the name through a “Name the Rover” essay contest, in which students from every state and territory were invited to propose a name with an explanatory essay. The winner was a 14-year-old 7th grader from Virginia, Alex Mather, whose essay and name suggestion, Perseverance, was selected as the winner from out of 28,000 entries. Here is a part of what Alex wrote,

“We are a species of explorers, and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere. We — not as a nation but as humans — will not give up. The human race will always persevere into the future.”[1]

This year has certainly been a test of that persevering character, hasn’t it? Around the time that little rover rolled across the surface of Mars for the first time, COVID claimed its 500,000th victim in our country. Another 2+ million have died elsewhere. No corner of the globe has been untouched by this virus, including here at Transfiguration. Every ounce of perseverance has been summoned from us, to be sure, and we will need to continue to draw on those reserves of courage, strength, and resilience as we move toward the eventual conclusion on this long valley of sickness and separation.

But we have not been alone, nor will we be, as we, like the Perseverance, venture forward into the uncertain future. On this journey we have always had the greatest of companions, who is also our shepherd, guide, teacher, friend, and master. He has been with us through it all, and he will keep shining on our path as we slowly make our way to greener pastures and calmer waters. He is the perfect expression of the love of God, and he will keep holding onto us as we persevere to the end.

So keep holding on to him. Keep listening for his voice every day in the Scriptures and in prayer. Keep trying to love one another like he loves. Keep putting your faith and trust in his way. And with him at our side, we will, indeed, persevere.