" God may be preparing us for something great he is going to ask of us in the future.

" Archbishop Alexander Sample Aug. 7 “Chapel Chat”
God is asking people of faith to be signs of hope in troubled times, Archbishop Alexander Sample said during an Aug. 7 livestreamed talk from his home chapel.

In his weekly Friday evening Chapel Chat, Archbishop Sample said he doesn’t know why God is allowing a pandemic and social unrest, but realizes from Scripture that God often takes the world’s trials and turns them to good. The current tribulations could end up having a purifying effect on the church, the archbishop suggested.

He said he cannot know the Lord’s plan, concluding, “But I trust him because he promises a future full of hope.”

God is not a distant force, the archbishop explained. “He is working out his will, working out his plan at all times. … God may be preparing us for something great he is going to ask of us in the future.”

Chapel Chats with Archbishop Alexander Sample from Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon on Vimeo.

That task may be a new Pentecost that comes through a smaller and more fervent body of believers, the archbishop said. “Have courage,” he added, citing a favorite saying of St. John Paul II: “Do not be afraid. Put out into the deep.”

During his July 31 Chapel Chat, the archbishop sounded a related theme, suggesting that the pandemic is a time for evangelizing.

“If we are witnessing to hope and joy in our lives even in the midst of all this mess, people will ask, ‘How can you be hopeful?’” That, he said, is a moment when believers should clearly and kindly explain their beliefs.

The archbishop admitted that he feels discouraged about world events, but assured listeners that God has not left them.

“We are not alone. God is with us,” he said. “God has plans for us.”

The church’s new mission could be to help people remember their real happiness and real purpose, the archbishop suggested. He warned that many in the global west are turning from divine and natural law to a sweeping acceptance of almost everything as their standard of virtue. He cautioned that such “anything goes” beliefs leave a hole in the human heart that people try to fill with all sorts of things, including political ideologies.

Many movements are good and worthy, he said, but none should become a person’s end-all and be-all, since only God is that.

The archbishop begged Catholics in his archdiocese to avoid the nation’s political division and instead embrace their spiritual bond. “Hold fast to Christ,” he said. “Please be unified to one another.”

Chapel Chats with Archbishop Alexander Sample from Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon on Vimeo.

People of faith — while they must work hard for justice, dignity and mercy — also can be a reminder that a perfect world is not the end goal, the archbishop said. “It is not about this world, it is about the world to come.”

At Mass Aug. 9 at St. Mary Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Northwest Portland, the archbishop noted another message the church can give the world: God is present always and in many ways, especially during dark periods.

He said God is with us in many ways: as the creator reflected in creation, through baptism, as the gathered church, via Scripture, in personal prayer, in the person of the priest at Mass and in all the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

“We are not awake to God’s constant presence,” the archbishop said. “God is always present to us. He never leaves us. He is right there.”

He urged listeners to always ask: “How is God present in this moment, in this person, in this event?”

At Mass Aug. 2 at the cathedral, the archbishop echoed St. Paul, saying that nothing can separate humanity from the love of God — unless humans purposefully reject the love via unrepentant sin. He assured Catholics who have been unable to attend Mass or receive other sacraments that they can use the increased quiet time at home to grow spiritually close to Christ.

“We can’t exhaust his mercy. We can’t exhaust his love. We can’t exhaust his patience,” the archbishop said, adding that many people who are anxious, angry and restless need to hear that news.