On March 27, 2020, a rainy evening in Rome, Pope Francis stood overlooking an eerily-empty Saint Peter’s Square. Around the entire world, Catholics set aside their work and woke from their sleep to join the Holy Father from their homes. Mere weeks into the pandemic that forced people from practically every country to stay behind their closed doors, the Pope offered us an Urbi et Orbi message and a blessing.
This month marks one year since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States, with some countries affected a few weeks prior, still others following soon after. For Americans, though, this is the month when everything changed. We had no idea at the time that we were looking at anything more than two weeks’ worth of canceled school and remote work. One step at a time, though, more pieces of our daily lives were chipped away at, and before we knew it, the virus had reached our own doorsteps. Whether that looked like our own illness, the illnesses of people we know, grief for lost loved ones, or grief for missed moments or dreams that we may never get back, this pandemic has affected us all.
We are a year in, sisters—and while I wish those were words I never had to say, here we are. As we approach this milestone, I turned back to the encouragement and wisdom that our Holy Father shared with us last March.
In the Eye of the Storm
His message was based on the Gospel of Mark, chapter 4, in which Jesus and the Apostles loaded into a boat after a long day of preaching and serving. As Our Lord slept, a violent storm began. Violent winds whipped around them. Waves crashed over the edge of the boat, threatening to fill it with water. Remember, four of the Apostles were experienced fishermen. A few waves would not be enough to strike the fear of death into their hearts—this storm must have been truly terrifying. Finally, they ran to the Lord.
They woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ // Mark 4:38
How familiar their cries sound! At this time last year, our prayers, too, were frantic, panicked. It felt as though we could sink at any moment. Pope Francis offered us this encouragement:
It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: ‘Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?’ (Mark 4:40).
Because He does respond—immediately. At the Apostles’ cry, Jesus rises and quite literally makes the storm that was threatening their lives only moments before disappear.
When you think of that instant response now, a year into the pandemic, do you feel a little envious?
I have to admit that I do.
We Are Still in the Boat
In many ways, our storm has changed. If you’ve finally reached a rhythm of working remotely or being back in your office in a safe manner, perhaps it feels like a break in the rain, though the thunder is still rolling in the distance. Maybe you’re a year into homeschooling or overseeing virtual school for your children, doing your best to care for their hearts alongside their minds and bodies. In that case, it may feel more like a persistent drizzle that is manageable on most days, but won’t let up, no matter how many days you peer out the window hoping for sunshine.
It may not be over yet, but maybe that means God isn’t quite finished with all that He has in store for us through this experience. “They were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?’” (Mark 4:41). Are we there yet? In awe of our powerful God, trusting that yes, even still, this is all in His loving hands?
The storm may have changed, passed in some ways and howling on in others. Regardless of how the pandemic is currently affecting each of us, there is no denying that we are still in the boat. The comfort and familiarity of the shore remains a ways away. That means the water still surrounds us; so much could still change at a moment’s notice. Above all else, we must trust Him. We must pray for such deep faith in God’s care for us that we, too, can sleep in the stern, no matter what wind and waves rage around us.
Let Him in the Boat, Too
Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that He can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with Him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies (Pope Francis).“They were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?’” (Mark 4:41). Are we there yet? In awe of our powerful God, trusting that yes, even still, this is all in His loving hands? #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Embracing This Cross
Especially at this one-year mark, falling, again, so appropriately during the season of Lent, take the time to pray about how you are going through your day-to-day life. Color-coded schedules and grand plans for how to fill the time at home are long behind us, but those things aren’t what matter to God.
- Have you been letting your frustrations with our situation affect the peace inside your home lately?
- How long has it been since you checked in on an elderly loved one, a friend or family member who lives alone, an acquaintance who works on the frontlines?
- Have you been skipping Mass because you’re tired of experiencing it through a screen? Are you putting off returning to church if it’s offered to you because staying home is “more convenient” for whatever reason?
- Are you using the pandemic as an excuse to not tithe any of your time, talents, or money?
Pope Francis said, “Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring.” We’ve been carrying this cross for a long time now, sister. He knows our weary hearts. But He still calls us to embrace it. Offer whatever areas of your life you currently lack courage, focus, or creativity to Him.
For Such a Time As This
I pray that by the time March 2022 arrives, there will be no need for another post like this one. But no matter how long the effects of the pandemic linger on, we can carry on with the confidence that we were made for a time such as this. We can carry on with endurance, bravery, and, most of all, faith.
We have an anchor: by his cross, we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross, we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross, we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. // Pope Francis
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