By Father Patrick Longalong
This past year had been a challenging time for many of us, not just because of the great losses and emotional stress that this pandemic had brought us but also for the physical day-to-day conditions and limitations that we have to deal with while waiting to get the spread of infection under control.
I have said many memorial Masses and prayer services commemorating the anniversary of a loved one who passed from COVID-19, including continued prayers for frontline workers still putting their health at risk while treating their patients. The first few months after the pandemic erupted, I participated in gatherings to remember the many nurses who died from this terrible disease. This greatly affected me as I spent time with family members and friends working in the medical field.
When I read the statistics that Filipino-American nurses accounted for 30 percent of the COVID-19 deaths among U.S. nurses, I was not at all surprised. I was sad and felt awful about this information, but not at all surprised.
Aside from the fact that Fil-Am nurses are concentrated specifically in critical care, I also know that many of them practice their faith and draw their sense of service from the Lord’s teachings. Many if not all will go above and beyond what is expected, fueled by their desire for the patient to experience that they are not alone.
A priest in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, who was my classmate, was telling me of the time he visited a parishioner in a hospital, and how a Filipino nurse stayed behind him and responded to the prayers as he anointed the patient who could not speak a word.
I celebrated a Mass with the hospital chaplains at Elmhurst Hospital for Erwin Lambrento, a tenacious night shift ER nurse who died of the virus in early May. He stepped up to care for patients when New York City became the country’s epicenter of COVID-19. The shared stories of their memories of Erwin were heartbreaking but reflect the joy he shared with those he worked with during the late hours of the night. He is called a hero by many, but a Christian is a description that best captures what he was able to accomplish.
This weekend’s Gospel is an explanation of the kind of love that Jesus expects from us as his disciples. A love that is an unselfish gift and expressed in service to others. This love, however, is not limited only to certain groups of people but is for everyone. The first reading clearly described God’s initiative to show us that His grace, His love, His mercy should not be withheld from anyone but freely given in hope that they too will learn how to love as the Lord loves us.
It is not easy to live the love that Jesus commands us. It is that last part, “as I love you,” that makes it challenging if you think about it. Jesus mandates us to “love one another” with the same amount of patience, understanding, and mercy as God. This requires a tremendous amount of energy and sacrifice.
How are we able to give that amount of love that is required of us by our Lord? The answer was from last weekend’s Gospel. We stay connected with Him. The secret of the life of Jesus was his connectedness with the Father. He withdrew regularly into a solitary place to pray. In our day we find it hard to find time in our busy schedules to be with God. God’s voice is often drowned out by the noise of this modern world. And sometimes when we take the time to speak to God, we do not have enough time to wait on Him and listen to His voice. The quiet becomes uncomfortable.
When we find ourselves beginning to get restless in the first few minutes of silence, it might be helpful for us to focus on Jesus’ words, “Remain in my love.” It is in these words that you will find peace.
Readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48
1 John 4:7-10
Father Longalong is the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village, and coordinator of the Ministry to Filipino Immigrants.