Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Stay calm, have faith.” Such words can roll off our lips so easily. But our emotions don’t always seem to follow. In this present time of uncertainty, our lives have been turned upside down. We are constantly confronted by news of viruses, sickness, death, quarantines, isolation, food and financial challenges, and more. You may be feeling powerless. I invite you for just a moment to put all your fear and anxiety aside. Think back, possibly to when you were a child, to when you more innocently trusted. At some point in your life, you were introduced to Jesus. You heard the Bible stories, you offered your nightly prayers, and you took a leap of faith and began to have conviction in him. You felt joy as your relationship with him developed and grew deeper. As you grew older and experienced life, you fell more and more in love with Jesus. You studied and accepted the Church’s practices, doctrine, morality, and spirituality. At times, you most likely were ready to follow Jesus wherever he led you and you trusted that because of him, you would experience life more abundantly. Your Catholic faith taught you that you were invited to trust God as a loving and caring Father, and your own journey was to be built on a relationship of intimacy with Jesus. To use Archbishop Vigneron’s term, you were living the call to Unleash the Gospel.
Now, once again come back to the present time. We are shaken. We live in a time when doubt, despair, skepticism, cynicism, fear, and uncertainty about our future challenges our faith and trust in God. The crisis of today is truly a crisis of faith, of trust. In turn, this crisis of trust leads to a deeper crisis of hope. This limits our capacity to love others and receive love as a gift. It truly quarantines and isolates us. This crisis of hope can prevent us from living as the joyful missionary disciples we either once were or strove to be. To be a Christian is to be one who hopes, but again words can roll off our lips so easily, while emotions don’t always follow. God is the foundation of hope. The maxim says: “One who does not trust God is without hope and one who does not have hope does not have God.” But let’s look at it from a different angle: One who has God, and trusts in God, has a foundation of hope.
This sounds all well and good, but it is difficult to feel it, to live it. Why? This crisis of trust and hope is colored by contemporary society. The steady diet of fear distorts how we perceive reality and how we know and communicate the truth. The non-stop anxiety professed by our media and culture misrepresents what Jesus offers and how he calls us to relate to each other. If we do not embrace God and listen to him, we begin to allow society to define our identity. This ultimately affects how we live our lives.
Even if the world seems to collapse around us, let’s go back to our foundation, the foundation of our faith and our spiritual beginnings. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” (1 John 4:18). As Catholics, we believe we are perfectly loved from all eternity as children of God and that God’s love is the both the foundation and the ultimate end of our being. As a result, God has a wonderful plan for each of us and this plan has been revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, in these uncertain times, we should not fear the future because God’s perfect love conquers all fears.
Trusting in God demands faith in God, especially in these uncertain times. Losing faith in God is always a possibility if we only focus on the steady panic society feeds us. Do not forget that our capacity to trust is built on the foundations of our past experiences. Building trust in God demands hard work and unceasing prayers for God’s grace. This Lent is not the one we expected, but it offers a perfect opportunity to renew our lives by developing greater trust in his divine providence. So limit the amount of media input, which only makes us feel powerless. Enter more trusting, childlike prayer. One who has God, and trusts in God, has a foundation of hope. Don’t forget that God has a wonderful plan for each of us and this plan has been revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Fr. J.J. Mech
P.S. Please remember that the Archbishop has asked us to pray the Memorare prayer:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother: to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.