We claim to have faith, and we often pray, “Thy will be done,” but do our beliefs penetrate to the depths of our souls? When hard times come, do we worry and complain and suddenly lose confidence in the Wisdom of God?
It’s easy to question God in this time of pandemic, as illness spreads rapidly everywhere, causing confusion, isolation, a loss of control over our lives (which we never really have, anyway, but like to think we do…), and death. Especially as church doors are locked to the faithful, and fisticuffs break out over a pack of toilet tissue, our minds almost naturally travel to a level of fretfulness, about one aspect or another of the unknown path stretching indefinitely out before us.
Continue in Charity
While crowds line up at grocery stores, citizens load up on guns and ammo, and we self-isolate, we believe we’re working to protect our families and ourselves, but are we acting with Christian charity? Are we putting others first, are we acting as disciples of Christ? At my own “panic grocery shopping” outing, the cashier told me that I was the nicest person she’d dealt with in a week. I don’t even know what I did. Most everyone there seemed fairly calm and well behaved. Perhaps it was because I talked about faith and praying, and putting it all in God’s hands. While I helped her with the bagging, she started talking about her mom, who has cancer. It was just my usual, easy mode of chit-chat (and probably slowed the line down for the folks after me), but it somehow touched her heart. I was surprised that something so simple could brighten her day, and I was blessed by her words, too.
As many of us are forced to slow down and spend more time at home, this situation offers us the potential to experience our holiest, most “profitable” Lent ever. Some of us might find that we are being forced to follow closely in the footsteps of Christ, even as they lead us to face the death of a loved one, or our own possible death. I’m over sixty years old, and have some health issues that put me at higher risk for complications. I’ve jokingly said to myself, “What’s the worst that could happen? I could die, but is that really the worst, or actually the best?” I’ve had to face my mortality in the past, with aggressive breast cancer, but God granted me a reprieve. I still hold to a reasonable awareness of my approaching death. When it’s time, nothing can stop it from coming. But I have developed a strong and active faith, and that is where I find peace.
Let It Be Done
I came across this quote in a Bible reflection, from One Bread, One Body, a publication of Presentation Ministries, founded in Cincinnati, OH by the late Fr. Al Lauer. This particular piece was written years ago by Fr. Al himself, but turns out to fit our present circumstances quite well:
“If you are a “do-it-yourselfer,” Jesus’ extreme demands are very disturbing. How can you do it? But if you are like Mary and know that life is “letting it be done” (see Lk 1:38) rather than “doing it yourself,” then you are excited to be taken by Jesus into a new dimension of grace, miracles, and mystery. The most important aspects of life, including death, are beyond our merely human capacities.”
As Holy week approaches, will we be willing to “let it be done,” willing to wait vigilantly with Jesus in the Garden of Gesthemane, where He prays: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42, NAB-RE). The next verse tells us that an angel came from heaven to “strengthen” our Savior. Do we not believe that God the Father will send us endurance and grace in time of need? Jesus was in such tremendous distress that he began to sweat blood. Nonetheless, He accepted the ultimate wisdom of His Father’s Will, and acted in obedience and tremendous love, whatever the cost. He showed us how to live.
Don’t Hold Back
When we hold back from following God, we miss out on the greatest gifts. Our faith becomes empty (as empty as bread shelves at the grocers right now!). As we strive to make prudent preparations for the weeks (possibly months) ahead, we must turn to the Scriptures and the faithful of the Church.
Priests and pastors are doing what they can to help, with fervent prayer and inspired guidance. Be uplifted by news stories of Italian priests, marching purposely through the streets to bless the faithful with the Holy Eucharist, or church groups gathering household staples to deliver to the homebound. There have been people paying for others groceries in the crowded stores, and neighbors are offering to run errands and prepare meals for neighbors at higher risk who can’t get out.
It’s when we start thinking of others more than ourselves that faith and love unite. Their unity forms the basis of Trust, which is the instrument of certitude and dependence that will carry us through these uncharted waters, and fill our hearts with courage and peace. Give it your best shot in the weeks ahead. Don’t let this season of penance be wasted in fear. And always remember, with our lives in God’s hands, what’s the worst that could happen?