We are living in some trying times and strive on a daily basis to understand — why? Why is this happening to us, to our world, to all we hold Sacred and believe in? In life there are so many questions that unfortunately must be left unanswered, that remain a mystery, and even though we do not like that answer, we learn to live with it. For anyone who has lost a loved one, you understand completely what that last part means. We are frightened, unsure of the future, and worried about those we love and care for. Yet in the Scriptures this weekend we are given comfort, we are reminded that we are not alone, and that if we listen, truly listen, we can hear the Shepherd’s voice rising above the chaos.
St. Peter reminds us to be “patient in our suffering for doing what is good.” It seems almost impossible to stay still, to follow the requests laid out before us, to maintain a safe distance in order to keep not only ourselves, but others safe as well; yet, St. Peter tells us that this patience is a “grace before God.” However, we are a restless people, accustomed to being constantly on the go, filing our days with so much busyness and noise that we do not have a clue as to what being patient honestly means, or the ability to even begin to hear the Shepherd’s voice.
But life has made other plans for us and we are now forced to stop, forego normal routines and activities, and learn to live in ways that are uncomfortable and incomprehensible. Families are kept apart, employers have had to find ways to keep their employees safe, and measures have been put in place to contain the spread of what threatens us. Today’s heroes do not wear capes — they wear uniforms, work tirelessly to save others, and are called on to be present to those in need. These heroes are everyday people who often went unseen or unnoticed, yet now have become essential — people we cannot live without. Even in our solitude, we too, are making an impact, changing the course of what scares us, insuring that we can return to “normal” once again. These are the “graces” that St. Peter is talking about, what we “have been called” to. Jesus, by His life and suffering, gave us the model by which we can follow in His footsteps.
We are now led to take a deep look at our lives, take stock of what truly matters, and for many of us, eliminate those things that were merely distractions. We now understand the importance of family, the value of friendship, and how our faith and trust in God can bear us through even the most difficult of times. We have shown the world and each other how creative we can be, how we can still come into each other’s homes, go into our places of worship, and be with others while keeping everyone safe. We have come together to connect, to pray, or to simply be present. Rosaries are shared via chat rooms, Mass is live streamed for all to attend, and prayer groups have formed in unexpected places.
My home was blessed with the Crown of the Holy Ghost, a Portuguese tradition of honoring the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, culminating with a feast on Pentecost Sunday. But, because of what is going on around us, we could not have anyone at our home, yet people wanted to pray with us. So we prayed together every night for a week, but rather than just being in our home, the Holy Spirit was now in the home of each person present online — from our home to Florida, across the country to California, and places in between — there were no boundaries. These creative endeavors have brought God into places where He may not have gone before, or even have been welcomed, giving the Shepherd the ability to find His lost sheep.
The Gospel emphasizes that the Lord is our Shepherd, bringing us back into the fold when we are lost, gently pulling us back when we try to get too far ahead, and easing our fears with a voice that is soothing and comforting, a voice that our hearts and souls know so well. Sadly, a voice that had been overshadowed by “thieves and robbers” vying for our attention, keeping us from the safety of the flock and the loving arms of the Shepherd. These trying times have refocused our attention, prioritized what matters, and has us tuning in to the voice of the Shepherd, listening for His guidance, knowing that He will lead us to safety, to “greener pastures.”
If there is one lesson to be had from all that is happening, it is that Jesus has come so that we “might have life and have it more abundantly.” When all this has passed, will we go back to the emptiness of our harried lives, ignoring the abundance that is laid before us, or will we choose to see the gifts and blessings in our lives — the gifts of our families, our health, and our ability to be productive in whatever capacity that means — the blessings of knowing we are loved and cared for, and the deeper knowledge that God does not leave us orphaned, but rather sends us Jesus, Our Shepherd, to guides us safely, to lead us home, and to be ever present in our lives?
Are you listening — can you hear Him calling?
Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Fall River and works for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation.
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org