“So Abraham called the name of that place The LORD will provide” (Genesis 22:14, RSV)
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:14-17, RSV)
We keep hearing the phrase “unprecedented times” about this period in which we fight the Coronavirus together. The uncertainty and scale of the crisis can test our faith. Many are asking, “What if I or a loved one gets sick?” “What will I do while my business is closed or I am without work?” Although this particular crisis is unprecedented, the experience of feeling our vulnerability and smallness is not.
Among the many examples of faith we could look to for a role model, I’d like to focus today on Abraham. He faced a critical moment when it appeared as though he might lose everything. However, he put all he possessed, and life itself, in God’s hands – from which he received it back and more. Abraham trusted God above everything. He proved the authenticity of his faith through his willingness to sacrifice Isaac and at the same time trust that God would keep His promise to give many descendants through Isaac.
Abraham’s faith was not blind or irrational. Quite the opposite. Abraham had a relationship with God, and he had faith in who God is, and in God’s character. St. Paul has a moving reflection on Abraham’s faith in his letter to the Hebrews chapter 11. He proclaimed of Abraham that, “He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead” (Heb. 11:19).
Abraham made a conscious decision based on his relationship with God, and he knew God to be truthful, loving, generous, and reliable. He knew that God is the Creator, and we are His creatures. Therefore God could ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and promise sons through Isaac at the same time, because even though it is impossible for humans, nothing is impossible for God.
In that critical moment, God’s actions also revealed incredible things about Him for us. God revealed that He is faithful and loving. He also revealed that He doesn’t desire arbitrary sacrifice and is not uncompassionate toward our suffering. On that mountain, God showed that He doesn’t need things from us, instead He is the one who provides for us. God Himself provided the sacrifice, His own beloved Son, on the Cross. This further revealed God’s character as compassionate and merciful. It also revealed the destructiveness of sin and His power to redeem us from it if we allow Him. Thus, the true sacrifice He desires is to give up sin and to give in to His guidance and love.
During Lent we are called to withdraw into the desert with Jesus – to quiet distractions, battle sin, and build relationship with the Lord in prayer. The Covid-19 pandemic has provided this desert experience at a new level. Many of the things that usually distract us have been withdrawn for a time. Time for deepening our relationship with God and our families has increased. With fewer places to run, we are also more forced to face ourselves. Stress has a way of revealing our vices and an imposed restrictions from government guidelines may unveil just how attached we might be to certain things.
This can be a time of fear, or a time of faith. St. Paul urged that we must remember who God is – our Father, and who we are – His children. If we truly believe this, as Abraham did and as Jesus made possible for us, then we should choose faith. We are sons and daughters of the living God, heirs of heaven, what shall we fear?
St. Paul also added the hard truth about resurrection – to rise with Christ we must first suffer with Him. We can try to avoid suffering and sacrifice but we will emerge from this pandemic and this Lent unchanged. However, if we accept it with hearts of faith and trust, we will have gained far more than we lost. Lent is only for a time, and it ends with Easter.
For my part, I will try to use this time to offer a small daily post for prayer. I’ll include a Scripture passage and a few thoughts. I’d love if you would add your own reflections in the comments sections as a way for us to pray and reflect together 🙂
Consider: – the three pillars of lent through the lens of our current situation
- Rosary walks – pray the rosary as you go for a walk outside. You could listen to it on podcast, pray it with a friend, or by yourself.
- Prayer of praise and worship – create a music playlist of praise and worship songs to listen to while at home or out walking.
- The public celebration of the Mass has been suspended temporarily in many places. Subscribe to receive the daily scripture readings from usccb.org or the Magnificat online and pray with them each day, or stream the Mass and participate in heart.
- St. Joseph is the patron saint of departing souls. Pray the St. Joseph pray each day or ask for his intercession for those who are dying.
- Spend time with spiritual reading. Get a good book about Jesus or the faith to nurture that relationship.
- Don’t horde supplies.
- Simplify meals to reduce grocery shopping outings.
- Offer up to Jesus intentionally, the loss of activities, events, or vacations you had planned on enjoying until they were cancelled.
- Sacrifice some social media time
- Consider other areas of your life or day that you could simplify for now
- Almsgiving/charity toward neighbor
- Begin with the persons in your home – make an effort to connect, eat meals together, be patient with one another, be forgiving, be flexible
- Go through your things and set aside what you no longer use to donate to charity. I highly recommend the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
- Follow the department of health’s guidelines about staying home , even though it’s hard, out of love for those who are vulnerable to Coronavirus and in solidarity with the health workers who are sacrificing so much
- Ask Mother Mary and the Holy Spirit for eyes to see the needs around you as Mary did at the Wedding of Cana, and to go to Jesus to help them together.
Make a Resolution:
- Choose one thing from each pillar to implement during this time.
- How has the coronavirus affected your lent?
- What Scriptures have come to mind for you or encouragements during this?
- What have you learned about yourself from this experience?
~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2020
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