How We Endured the Pandemic of 2020 Day 11

Sunday, March 29, 2020 – The Fifth Sunday of Lent

 Mass Intentions: Jerome (JJ) T. Wytrawl, Daniel Ryan, Thomas Scaria, Regine Romulus,

Virginia Maio

This is the fifth Sunday of Lent and the second Sunday the church has been closed!  This has been difficult for me and I believe for all of us.  The pandemic continues to cause havoc throughout the world, continues to take people’s lives and often robs us of our own sense of peace. The news can be overwhelming and dreadful images on TV can cause great fear and anxiety.  This is a very difficult time.

What are we supposed to do?  We self-quarantine.  We work remotely.  We stay in our homes.  We run in and out of the grocery store as quickly as we can and try not to watch too much of the news, just enough to know what is happening.  It feels so helpless.  Nonproductive, weary already, with days, if not weeks, to go.  Weary of this space and time, maybe even depressed and anxious.  There’s so much in our heads and in our hearts.  How are we supposed to think about this pandemic?

Have the mind of Christ.

The mind of Christ.  It is the way to maneuver through this pandemic.  It is the only way to lament the reality of all those who have died and still be faithful to the gospel of life.  The mind of Christ is the only mind that can hold together life and death, lament and hope, sickness and recovery. It is not a binary mind; it does not need to split into either/or thinking.  The normal rational mind is necessary to function in life, to work, but the normal rational mind can’t hold opposites together. The mind of Christ can. And today’s gospel shows us.

“Lord, if you had been here my brother never would have died”.  That is the beginning of her lament as Martha runs towards the Lord in disbelief, anxious, and heavy with grief, because of the death of Lazarus her brother.  Is that not the same question so many people have asked during this pandemic?  Maybe not publicly, but certainly in our hearts.

Italy is the most Catholic country in the world, with thousands of people sick and dying from this virus.  Imagine the number of times the Italians, the priests and nuns, and other church leaders, in their pain and frustration have asked that question, “Where are you Lord?”

We are different here in these United States.  Like Martha, crying out before the Lord in her suffering and disbelief, our cry is similar… How could this happen here?  No vaccine, no cure, not enough masks, not enough ventilators, not enough beds, where is the Lord?  Lord, where are you?  Are you with us?

Most of us have cried out before, either individually or within our own families.  Maybe not publicly, but have we not asked the question in our own disbelief and frustration:  Where were you Lord when my spouse left, when my child died, when my parents did not recover, when my friend committed suicide, when my addiction gets the best of me, when I lost my job…. the list can go on.  Yes, we too, know the cry, we know suffering.  But this Suffering is different.  It’s not individual or just within the family.  This cry is collective, communal.  A communal suffering the whole world is experiencing.  Crying out in a dirge of shock and disbelief, “God, where are you?”

And there, in the middle of Martha’s lamentation, there is this holy tension.  A holy tension that she knows to be true. She laments, continues with “and even now”, she cries out.

“And even now…… I know God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

In that small phrase “and even now,” Martha holds the tension between despair and assurance.  In her disbelief of Lazarus’ death, is her belief in his new life.  Within her lament is her hope.  She holds this holy tension, not denying one for the other, not like different sides of the same coin, but more like pieces of the same puzzle that belong together.  Honoring the connection of both pieces, holding them gently together.  This, my brothers and sisters, is the mind of Christ.

Who is this person?

Who is this person in John’s Gospel who has put on the mind of Christ?

Who can hold this holy tension of opposites?

Who is this Martha, who has the audacity to declare to Jesus I know he will rise again”!

 She is a woman. A woman of great faith, but she’s considered a second-class citizen: no power, no authority, ritually unclean.  But obviously she was a friend of Jesus, whom she loved, and who loved her and her brother and sister, Lazarus and Mary.  She was a caretaker of her brother and sister.  She was not considered an apostle but certainly she was a follower of Jesus.  She was a woman of great courage and great faith.

Who is she?

She is us! And we are her.

She represents our community. Seen sometimes as powerless and without much authority because of lack of resources, in a neighborhood considered by some to be unclean and second class.

And yet we are caretakers.  We feed the hungry and the homeless.  And we are courageous in giving what we have for the common good.

She is us and we are her.  For we too have the mind of Christ.

When you still love after being betrayed, you have the mind of Christ.

When you grieve the death of a loved one and know the new life that that death has given you, you have the mind of Christ.

When you hate the behavior but you show compassion, gentleness and love for the person, you have the mind of Christ.

When the pain of giving birth gives way to new life, you have the mind of Christ

When this pandemic causes you great anxiety and you still smile because you know you rest in the arms of God, you have the mind of Christ.

When you are moved to tears because of your own suffering, and still know a deeper peace because God is sustaining you in your suffering, you have the mind of Christ.

When you are hopeful, when it seems you have no reason to be hopeful, you have the mind of Christ.

When you can hold the contradictions, the opposites, together: the Virgin Birth, the Holy Trinity, the Body and Blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine. When you can hold all of these together, you have the mind of Christ.

Yes.  Already. You have the mind of Christ. Yes, you have what you need to endure this pandemic.

Put it on and keep it on.

We need to help each other put on the mind of Christ!  When it is easy to fall into only negative thinking you need the mind of Christ.

When the bad news overwhelms you, turn it off and turn on the mind of Christ which reminds you who you belong to.

If sickness visits you or a loved one, wear the mind of Christ, and know that nothing can separate you from the love of God.

The mind of Christ will always sustain you.  It has sustained the world for more than 2000 years.  It will get us through this!

Even though these are trying times for the world and for our community and we do not know when our society will return to its normal way operating, we take courage that with the mind of Christ we can hold together our lamentations and our hope, our fear and our peace.  Holding this Holy Tension is part of our Catholic Christian tradition.  It is the gospel, and we have put on the mind of Christ, knowing full well that “We have come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord, trusting in His holy Word, He never failed me yet….”

Always, may God’s peace be yours,

Fr. Leo

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