March 21, 2020 – Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
I’ve got it easier than a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean things are easy. I’m not even sure that easy exists right now. In considering my posture towards the current reality, generally I feel like a public optimist but a private pessimist. Neither attitude is inauthentic.
Sometimes I marvel at the opportunity for social reforms that could result from attending to the issues that made us so vulnerable to this pandemic. Within minutes though, I whiplash to my much darker imaginings of what the economic and psychological fallout could be after we have communally endured what is necessary in order to survive this public health emergency. Of course, I cannot begin to guess which configuration of my hopes, fears, and unimagined eventualities will finally come to pass.
I appreciate those struggling heroically to project good cheer above all, but I want all of you reading this to know that I also share in some portion of your darker anxieties, frustrations, and difficulties even though I am fortunate to be secure in my physical well-being.
My mood at this moment in history is captured for me by the words that the Irish author Samuel Beckett wrote for his novel The Unnamable: “You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” To me, the sentiment conveyed is not despair, but rather heavy and laborious hope. Because what choice have we but to soldier forward? Every day brings a new insight or policy that prevents us from knowing where we are truly headed. Ours may simply be to find the next step.
Last week I wrote naively about the importance of visiting the occasional friend in the midst of cancelled meetings and home offices. Now we are sheltered in place and needing to make do with Skype and telephone.
I’d committed more than a month ago to train for a 10k run as a fundraiser to benefit the Marist Brothers’ Center at Esopus. When the scheduled run got cancelled, I decided to continue my training regardless—after all, why should I let reality interfere with my personal goals? Now I’ve hurt my foot. Hopefully it is short-lived.
This week I took advantage of the blessed opportunity to help in the parish food pantry at St. Frances of Rome here in the Bronx to benefit some of those far more vulnerable than myself. The opportunity to do physical work around other people for a purpose that justified the risk exposure was a bright spot in a challenging week. If I correctly understand though, most of the regular volunteers will be advised to no longer leave their homes after this weekend due to state government guidelines restricting the movements of the elderly and frail of health. Can the food pantry even continue to operate? Will younger (and new) volunteers need to assume a new level of responsibility to ensure continued operation?
Through all the uncertainty, I think I have managed to maintain an ambiguous trust in God. On some level I know that we will be ok when all this is through, but I just don’t know what “ok” means in this context. Also, just because I trust God doesn’t mean I don’t feel hurt or angry at God over all this. When listening to a psalm today about God’s tender compassion, I noticed my jaw clenching. Whatever I’m feeling though, I know that God can take it. Some conflict is inevitable in our most intense human relationships—why wouldn’t this be true in our relationship with God as well?
Right now, there is nothing left but to move forward.
Announcement: I have recognized that my ability to sustain a weekly blog like this is drawing to a close. However, I also recognize that some readers have come to appreciate these writings as part of their routine. Therefore, I am inviting people to consider contributing as guest authors, perhaps even on a regular basis. Please contact me if you are interested in helping out. With combined effort, we can continue to keep this reflection series a monthly feature while benefiting from more diverse insights and experiences.
This week’s ‘ear candy’ is a true pick-me-up Gospel number. “Better” reassures us that it will get better because God is in control. It is upbeat and catchy, and I hope you enjoy it. The “brain food” is a reflection on the witness offered by heroic Catholic sisters in Philadelphia who responded to the needs presented by the 1918 flu epidemic.
Ear Candy: “Better” by Hezekiah Walker
Brain Food: “We Should All Be More Like the Nuns of 1918” by Kiley Bense
Come back next Saturday for a new post!