Pandemics, like death, can, if we let them, focus the mind. And the spirit. On what, or who, we take for granted. On where our priorities truly lie. On whether we are more anxious about sickness and death than we are about our spiritual well-being. On whether our life in God is so marginal that it simply withers when our routine is broken.
Pandemics, like death, can focus the mind. If we let them.
We lose that focus when we’re caught up in complaining. Or anxiety. Or judging. Or caring more about how the decisions and behaviors impact us.
Our focus should be on others. How they are. What they need. How we can help. Offering tranquility and peace of mind. And sharing, or even carrying, their heartaches, frustrations, and burdens.
Our focus should be outside of ourselves.
And so, ultimately, our focus should be on our Lord God: His commands to love anyone more than ourselves; and His promise that, no matter what, even in the worst, He is working for our good and will sees us through and is using whatever is now to draw us closer to Him.
Our Lord indeed draws us closer. Let’s not pull back. Let’s not lose focus or be distracted from His love. Let’s look beyond ourselves and our demands and our fears.
Our Lord’s promises and even His commands, which are always for our benefit: that is what we should love and desire, more than life itself. For His commands, even when they rub us wrong, and His promises, even when they seem far away—these are the two virtues on the path to more abundant life. The two virtues that pull us out of the rut of increasing apprehension and selfishness.
You know, you recall, that’s what you prayed for at the beginning of this Mass: that, together we might love what the Lord commands, and desire what He promises. And why? So that amid the changes of the world, our hearts may there be fixed where true joys are to be found.
If this pandemic has convinced you of anything, perhaps it has convinced you that this is not the best of all possible worlds. That true joys are not to be found where you located them last year, two months ago, or even yesterday. And that the rising tension—deeply within you and certainly among us—that mounting friction cannot lead anywhere good.
And the way out is not to fight better. Or to wish harder. The way out is by shifting away from the noise, and into the stillness that Our Lord gives. In the stillness found not in apathy or in giving up, but in knowing and trusting, with great patience, that our Lord always gets His way, always comes through, and works out everything for the best to those who love Him and keep His commandments.
Yet the Lord’s comfort and consolation does not always come quickly. He does not act according to our calendar. He lets things simmer, as He is now, not because He is unwilling or unready, but because He wishes to strengthen our trust and confidence in Him; because He desires to produce godly patience; because patience, which is also known as perseverance, is the pavement on the path to abundant life.
These recent days certainly require greater patience—patience with our own expectations, with others, with those in authority, and with our Lord God. These recent days also require greater trust—which means relying on others, but most of all relying on God. That’s hard to do because relying on others is not our ‘go-to’ nature. We want to be self-reliant because it puts us in control of our own fate. But trust, with patience, asks us to pin our hopes to someone else, depending on them to do what is best for me.
That’s hard enough with someone we love, with whom we spend each day. That trust seems harder and harder when it comes to our heavenly Father. Because we see Him as so distant, when He is really so near. Because we often see Him not as our Father, but as a rule-maker who limits us and whose rules must be avoided.
But trusting that Our Lord’s ways are truly for our good; and that they are not only the best way, but the only way out of our morass—that’s what we pin ourselves to when we are baptized, when we confess and hear the absolution, when we receive the Eucharist, when we pray. Whenever the Holy Spirit draws us closer to God, then we are being asked to truly trust, and to be truly patient as Our Lord, in His strange ways, arranges everything for your own salvation.
Patience and trust is the way of all those who hope in the Lord. Patience and trust is what draws us closer to Our Lord and urges us to love Him all the more. Patience and trust is what our life in God is all about. For when we have patience and trust, then we have true freedom—freedom from fear, freedom from anxiety, freedom from grief and heartache. And when we have patience and trust, then we have put aside our selfish desires, and our passions are aligned to Our Lord and His will.
Our Lord gives us His Holy Spirit in order to work in us patience and trust. This Spirit molds us to be of one mind and will—to have the mind of Christ, and to realize that what the Lord wills is actually what we truly want and must have.
This Spirit-given patience and trust sees us safely through suffering, all anxiety, and even through martyrdom. And this patience and trust keeps our hearts and minds fixed on the heavenly goal so that we are not distracted by the cares of this life.
And as He did throughout all ages, the Holy Spirit helps us see that, what we think we need and what we say is best, is small; and that what is truly for our advantage is so much greater.
To get there, the Holy Spirit aids us first by refreshing our hearts; and then by inspiring in us a sturdy hope together with true patience; and finally, by increasing our faith in God’s mercy, especially when we begin to see what our self-serving, anxious and earthy ways have gotten us.
If there is any lesson at all to be learned, patience and trust is the lesson that Our Lord is teaching us these days. Just as taught the same to the holy apostles, to the holy martyrs, and to all who have ever seen that living in this life requires greater help than we can ever contrive.
Let us not lose focus. Let us earnestly desire to acquire, through His church-given gifts, the perseverance and faith poured into us by Christ’s Spirit. And we do that when we truly are not hearers only, but doers of the word by being diligent in our prayers, faithful in our communion, and regular in our confession. And above all, let us fear the loss of nothing in this life, but instead fix our hearts and minds living in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom, with the Father in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, belongs all glory, honor and worship throughout all ages of ages.