"And now what??"
“Get a life!” You heard it, or you said it. It is a well know idiom expressing the idea that there is life and then, there is “Life”. There is life being caught up in one’s or someone else’s trivial matters and there is Life to address things that really matter. There is life being caught in the rat race and there is life to race towards what truly is valuable and eternal.
About three years, in the midst of the Pandemic I told you that “I want to get a life” would be a more appropriate idiom. Shutdown and at home, we came to miss the long commute, the bossy boss, the cranky customer, and even the preachy preacher.
Children who otherwise would love to skip classes, were sitting at home not knowing what to do with themselves – never mind their parents!
You were at home, with no social life, dealing with poor internet connections or wrestling with an unwieldy Zoom meeting. Outside, you could hear the dog howling to a tree, and the neighbors yelling to each other. You had it! You wanted to get back to “normal.”
Now the pandemic is over, and we are back to “normal” – or so we think. But is it “the good old normal” or is it something else that still challenges us in ways that we never thought possible?
Let’s face it. During the pandemic years, time didn’t stand still. Kids grew up – fast! And whether we are aware or not, for all of us the body clock kept ticking.
And as a society, even if we personally were not hit by the virus, nevertheless we know that we all were affected. The virus impacted society, including social interactions, the economy, politics, education, and businesses leaving a lasting impact on our lives and in the ways we relate to each other.
Like glaciers leaving behind deep scars, the virus left deep scars in the fabric of our common life. And, as much as we would have liked it, there is no “Reset” button available to any one of us.
So, now, let me offer you some good news. No! No “snake-oil-good-news,” but real good news.
In the Gospel of John, we are told the story of Jesus dealing with his disciples’ grief in knowing that their long-hoped tomorrow of vindication and triumph appeared to be off the table.
Early on, even when Jesus warned the disciples about the gathering storm, St. Matthew (16:22) tells us that Peter voicing the feeling of all the disciples rebuked – rebuked! – Jesus for being such a downer. “This shall never happen to you!”
The “tomorrow” they desired and prayed for came to be a quite different and worrying proposition, however.
For them, it was a double whammy. First, they had to deal with their own grief, and then, the distress in realizing what Jesus may have to go through.
Yes. They were facing an uncertain and unclear future and even worse, it was a future away from Jesus, whom they trusted and followed.
“Don’t be worried! Have faith in God and have faith in me,” Jesus said. In other words, “I’ve got this.” Jesus knew that the final scene of His life was not to be at the Cross. Yet what laid before Him was a struggle like none other.
Nevertheless, Jesus trusted God for His own future. And as Jesus was trusting His Father for His own future, He invited His friends to do the same – “Trust God and trust me. We are all in good hands.”
Commenting on our Second Lesson, Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP, writes that “Sometimes the Scriptures push the limits of our imagination. Our second reading from 1 Peter is a good example of that. The letter was probably intended as an instruction for those preparing for baptism.
“It may have been a homily preached at the celebration of the sacrament, or even at the Easter vigil. Today’s passage helps us reflect on the effects of baptism upon the individual, as well as the community.
“Notice what Peter calls us, the baptized – ‘living stones.’ See what I mean? He is pushing, or better, expanding our imagination. How can a stone be living?”
So, as we face the challenges of daily life, Jesus invites us to enlarge our imagination beyond the simple faith in a God who is far away yonder the blue sky, minding his own business. For such is the kind of non-controversial faith that is easy to accept, the kind of “In-God-we-trust-faith” espoused by so many. In St. Peter’s words, the spiritual milk.
However, we are invited to have faith in the Son of the Living God, Jesus, who is really interested in each one of us. In fact, according to Jesus, we are His only and most important business.
And as difficult to believe and as unwarranted it may appear at first glance, we are still on God’s loving hands. So how to trust Jesus? “Have faith in God and have faith in me,” Jesus said.
In the midst of the changes and challenges that we are going through, our future is secure in God’s hands. “I’ve got this” Jesus said. And as far as we know, Jesus has not changed his mind. He still is, “The Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
As life continues, in this “new normal”, there are many “Ifs”, “Whens”, and “Hows”. Still, Jesus offers words of hope and peace.
His trust in His Father still should inspire us to move ahead with peace, knowing that even if we are on uncharted waters, still Jesus knows our way back home. That is the solid faith – what St. Paul calls “the solid food,” that will enable us to not only to survive, but to thrive.
As I said last Sunday, we are a people after God’s own heart being cared for a Master Shepherd. A Good Shepherd that knows the way. A Good Shepherd thar will only lead us into what is of lasting truth. And a Good Shepherd that will always lead us on the life, life abundant and eternal.