Recently, I was tossing-and-turning in bed thinking of the lead story from the news I had just watched. It was, of course, about the pandemic - rising case counts in most Provinces and the presentation of the “rollout” for the vaccine in Ontario. I couldn’t sleep because I felt scared which always results in my becoming angry. I was angry with those faceless people who seem to act recklessly and thus endanger everyone else. I was angry with the government for its apparent slow “rollout” of the vaccine and I was angry with policy makers who have placed people my age without other health conditions more towards the back of the line. I felt sorry for myself. These thoughts turned and turned in my mind. Slowly, however, I began to think of something different. Should I not seek to understand why people do what they do instead of jumping to the most critical opinion? After all, it isn’t easy to be without the company of friends. Relationships and affection make us human in many ways. Should I not be happy for others when they receive the vaccine rather than envious? So many people are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the virus. My good health is a blessing and those whose health is not as strong and those who care for them need to be protected. Should I not wait for my turn trying to live the words of St. Paul – “Love is patient, love is kind.”? As I thought over these questions, I realized I want to be a Christian all the time. Even as I anticipate some return to the lives we use to live and enjoy, such as, the freedom to give and receive a hug, and for the Lourdes Community to be together to celebrate Mass, I must wait and collaborate as a Christian.
Our faith is not restricted to one compartment among many which together constitute our life. On the contrary, our faith is to be present and impactful in every part of our lives. The pandemic hasn’t changed our “marching orders,” it hasn’t altered our mission as given to us by the Son. That being so, how do we proceed, how do we live our faith now? A passage and image from the Gospel have been helpful to me during these moths. The passage is from Matthew’s gospel (Mt. 14: 27) where Jesus walks on the water during a storm. When the disciples see him they think it is ghost but the Lord tells them to “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” In the original text, Jesus says something closer to “I am” instead of “it is I.” The Lord’s use of “I am” reminds us that this is the name God gave to himself in response to Moses at the burning bush in the Old Testament. In the face of a storm and fear, Christ was and is saying, “Be not afraid. God is here with you.” The image comes from Jesus’ frequent reference to Israel and the world as “the vineyard.” While I know that God in his goodness, God is all-Perfect and all-loving did not create the suffering of the pandemic, but God has permitted it to continue. There are things we cannot know with regard God’s action or apparent inaction. Even though we do not understand, our call as his disciples to labour in the vineyard remains constant. And so it seems that our current mission is to labour in the vineyard the Lord in his perfect wisdom has given to us – the vineyard marked by a global pandemic.
As we seek to labour in the vineyard of the Lord in this new year, we do so with his compassion and his love. As we walk the troubled and pained paths of our world we do so with him. When he told the disciples “’I am,’ so take heart and do not be afraid,” the Lord was speaking to them and to us. We begin this new year perhaps with confusion, uncertainty and fear, but we also begin it with renewed love, generosity and hope. And we do so because our God, our Lord, our Saviour, our Brother is with us.
God Bless and Happy New Year,