After two weeks plus post hospital rest, I had a follow-up visit with my personal physician who informed me I had been much sicker and closer to death than I had understood. So now the duty of the moment is to do the necessary for the physical, emotional, and spiritual rehab.
Here in the hermitage I am once again able to celebrate Holy Mass, receive Holy Communion, pray the Divine Offices, the Holy Rosary etc., and spend time with lectio divina.
These gifts of encounter and companionship with Jesus give purpose and meaning to our lives as His disciples.
Sacred Scripture is the living, active, loving, voice of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, source of insight, understanding, guidance, comfort, particularly when we are in pain, confusion, or in the heat of the battle of spiritual warfare: Because He Himself was tested through what He suffered, He is able to help those who are being tested. [Hb.2:18]
While words, such as from Hebrews above, are spoken to the entire human family, it is crucial we hear the words personally, thus: able to help me while I am being tested.
For months now the entire human family has been, is being, tested in a manner few saw coming and in a manner which confronts us with how extraordinarily little, if any, control we actually have over how life unfolds.
This pandemic has gone on long enough, is virulent enough, that every corner of the earth, every nation, every family, each of us is impacted.
In the midst of all this with the psychological, spiritual, economic devastation that is increasingly part of the suffering, with so many people out of work with lots of time on their hands social unrest – sometimes under the guise of agitating for a more just society, sometimes just to rebel against things like social distancing – has become in places part of daily life.
Given, as throughout history from the beginning, the vast majority of our brothers and sisters, day in and day out, seek only to live lives that focus on raising a family, being kind to one another, praying and loving as children of God, that same majority is, frankly, deeply confused, even frightened, certainly exhausted as this pandemic and its attendant disruption of ‘ordinary life’ deepens.
Gifted with intellectual curiosity, creativity, imagination we human beings over the millennia have developed systems of communal living, agriculture, medicine, science, art: in a word we are creative, problem solvers, and intently seekers of the ‘why’, the favourite question of small children!
Why this pandemic with this particular virus at this time in history?
The longer it takes for finding a definitive, or at least somewhat clarifying answer or for
scientists to discover a vaccine, and for ‘normal’ life to resume, the greater the psychological, socio-familial toll within the human family and on each one of us.
If my stint of serious illness has taught me anything, above and beyond the importance of family, their love, the power of their prayer and that of loving friends, it is to accept – hopefully with no small degree of humility: “Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” [Jn.21:18]
While in the first instance this is Jesus directly telling Peter in his old age he will be martyred for Christ – and tradition tells us when the time came in Rome for Peter to be crucified in his humility he asked to be crucified upside down, not believing himself to be worthy of being crucified in the same manner as Jesus – there is another dimension to Jesus’ word to Peter, namely the personal word to each of us.
Most of us will not be taken away and martyred, however this pandemic is to experience ‘being led where we do not want to go’.
This pandemic certainly is to experience, irrespective of our age, a being dressed NOT by ourselves or with our own clothing but by governments with the restrictive clothing of isolation and myriad other ever changing regulations and being led into an abnormal daily life with all the attendant stress, uncertainly, confusion.
There will come a time, a day, in our lives when the being taken/led to death will indeed be entering into the experiential truth of: In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you also may be. [Jn.14:2,3]. In that moment when Jesus Himself has come for us we will surrender to the ultimate experience of: Come to Me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy, and My burden light. [Mt. 11:28-30]. For having lived this out faithfully each day, embracing Jesus’ yoke and burden, true rest will be Jesus taking us from the nomadic tent of chronological time into the home of His and our Father, there to dwell in the depths of true rest which is communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity.
Between now and then, bearing the cross of this pandemic, we must ask the help of the Holy Spirit and Our Blessed Mother so as not to be enmeshed in the media-hype, their obsession with body counts, infection counts, nor to fall into the burning tar pit of real or imagined theories about the origins of all this or how long it will last or the myriad of issues which suddenly dominate against the background of the pandemic, disturbingly distracting us from the unchangeable, which should be our comfort and joy, namely faith, love, family, and that hope which never fails for, like truth, it is the assurance of living in union with our Beloved who assures us He is indeed our way, truth, life. [cf. Jn. 14:6]
Satan is mucking around with peoples’ emotions and fears as he always does, he is messing around with the media, governments, and sowing disruption and confusion everywhere and information overload, much which information is of debatable accuracy, for he is a liar.
As disciples of Christ, we should ask for the grace to do as Our Blessed Mother did when Herod’s death squads were after Jesus, when Jesus left home and was away for most of the last three year’s of His life and Mary, undoubtedly Her motherly heart aching and missing Him, endured His absence, until it was time to witness His suffering on the Cross, to accept becoming Our Mother, then between Jesus’ Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost She held those in the Upper Room together, until they were empowered by the Holy Spirit after which, on earth at the heart of the Church until Her assumption, and now from heaven for each of us as Mother, She is penultimate icon of being faithful disciples of Christ: [In the Gospel for Christmas], only one thing is said about the Mother of God: she “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk. 2:19)……What were these things? They were joys and sorrows: on the one hand the birth of Jesus, the love of Joseph, the visits of the shepherds, that radiant night. But on the other hand: an uncertain future; lack of shelter, “because there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk. 2:7); the desolation of rejection; the disappointment of having to give birth to Jesus in a stable. Hopes and anxieties, light and shadow: all these things settled in the heart of Mary. And she, what did she do? She reflected on them, meaning that she went over them with God in her heart. She did not keep anything for herself, close anything off in solitude or smother it in bitterness; she brought everything to God. That is how she kept these things. Giving things up is how to keep them: not allowing life to fall prey to fear, to discouragement or superstition, not closing oneself off or seeking to forget, but making everything a dialogue with God. And God, whose heart is set on us, comes to dwell in our lives. 
This is the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Mother, showing us by Her own doing so first for us, how to endure and be faithful, to trust and have hope during this pandemic and beyond, with Her help, bringing everything to the Holy Trinity, speaking all that is on our hearts and listening, for in the listening we experience we are beloved and that all will be well.
 AVE MARIA, The Mystery Of A Most Beloved Prayer; Pope Francis; pp. 90-92; Penguin Random House 2019 ~ [italics and highlighting mine]
© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph
Good to have a long writing to ponder. Helps enormously to pass the time. Thank you.
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