Ven. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen coined this unforgettable saying: “Without Good Friday there is no Easter Sunday!” Before the radiant rainbow, the tempestuous storm. The fragrant and beautiful rose was preceded by the sharp and penetrating thorns. The majestic and fluttering wings of the Monarch Butterfly are the result of metamorphosis having first been a caterpillar. The captivating and artistically transcendent sunrise was preceded by the dark hours of night. And the well-known poetic couplet rings so true: “Spring showers bring May flowers!” Even sickness, that comes as a result of Original Sin, once cured, brings forth a healthy body and rejoicing in a renovated vigor in the body. Finally, once again Ven. Fulton Sheen expressed, with a tinge of humor: “There are two contrasting philosophies of life: (Choose one or the other!) “It is either the fast and then the feast; or it is the feast and then the head-ache!”
All of the above proverbs, mini-poems and maxims introduce us into the theme of our essay, and it is the following: “Hope and Trust in the midst of trials!” Plunged and immersed in the midst of trials, let us lift our minds, hearts and souls, and with every fiber of our being, abandon ourselves to the Hands and Heart of our loving Father. He knows us through and through. Jesus reminds us: “God knows the number of hairs on our head.” (Mt. 10:30) Jesus further encourages us with these words:“God the Father has us in the very palm of His hand and no one can snatch us out of His hand.” (Jn. 10:29)
Therefore, we would like to offer just a few words and ideas of encouragement with the firm hope that we will place our hope and trust in God who is a mysterious God, but beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt, He loves us much more than we know and love ourselves!
1. THE WORDS OF GOD ARE LIGHT, SUPPORT, PEACE AND STRENGTH. Allow the Word of God to enlighten your path and guide your steps. Allow God’s Word to support you, to fill you with peace, and strengthen your feeble and weak members. A few verses for your meditation:
a) “The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” (Psalm 23)
b) “If God is for us, then who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)
c) “Behold I am with you always, even until the end of the world.” (Mt. 28:20)
d) “Do not worry… do not worry… do not worry! Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything else will be given to you besides.” (Mt. 6:25-34)—From the Sermon on the Mount.
e) “There is no wine… Do whatever He tells you…” (Jn. 2:1-12)—The Wedding Feast at Cana
f) “In God’s will is our peace.” (Dante—The Divine Comedy)
Meditate slowly upon these words and almost through spiritual osmosis you will start to experience peace, joy, and trust in God your loving Father.
2. TRY TO BE A GOOD SAMARITAN. Right now more than ever is the time for the Good Samaritans to rise up and become who they are called to be! Call to mind this masterpiece of a Parable—THE GOOD SAMARITAN. (Lk. 10:25-37) The beaten man lying by the side of the road was bypassed twice. Finally, as the Samaritan passed by he was moved to compassion. He bent down, lifted the wounded man onto his beast of burden, and transported the man to the nearest Inn. While there, the Good Samaritan provided for all that the wounded man needed to be healed. The message is crystal clear: the wounded man is crying out for help and we are called to be the Good Samaritan in the highways, back-roads and hedges of life.
3. HOW TO BE THAT GOOD SAMARITAN. You might be wondering, if that is the case, how can I be this Good Samaritan facing the pandemic of Coronavirus; am I not supposed to be in the protective mode and watch over myself? Yes and no! Yes, use precautionary measures to protect yourself. However, we are never called to cave in on ourselves, to forget and be oblivious of our brothers and sisters, especially the most weak, the most vulnerable, the most worried or depressed; in a word, those who are really in need of a helping hand in imitation of the Good Samaritan. Remember the words of Jesus: “Whatsoever you did for the least of my brothers, that you did for me.” (Mt. 25:40) The following then are ways that we can be “the real McCoy”—the authentic Good Samaritan.
a) PRAYER, PRAYER, PRAYER!!! Augment your prayer life. Pray for the whole world, the Church, those infected with the virus, the healthcare workers, the elderly and sick who are most at risk. Indeed, fervent prayer is truly being an authentic Good Samaritan.
b) SMILE. Instead of transmitting sadness, gloom and depression towards those with whom you are in contact, wear a constant smile on your face. The smile is a good form of contagion!
c) WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT. Become a Barnabas, which translated means Son of Encouragement. This is to say: try to pick people up, especially your family members, by expressing words of encouragement. The reason why teams win when they play at home rather than away, is for the simple reason of the cheering and encouragement from the home fans. Be a cheerleader in your own family!
d) SERVE RATHER THAN SEEK TO BE SERVED. Jesus said of Himself: “The Son of man has not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life in ransom for many.” (Mt. 20:28) Without a doubt, at home with few or many family members, we can find opportunities to serve, rather than give into the desire to snap our fingers and say: “Hey, serve me!!!“
e) BE CLEAN AND ORDERLY. St. Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises states the purpose of the Exercises: to order the disorder in our lives so that we can seek the will of God and carry it out in our lives. At home strive to be orderly—in your room, in the living-room, in the kitchen. St. Therese stated: “Pick up a pin from the floor for the love of God and you can save a soul!” Also, strive to order the disordered in your moral life: renounce sin and sinful habits!
4. THREE SUGGESTIONS FROM BISHOP ROBERT BARRON—RELATED TO THE CORONAVIRUS. Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and Episcopal Vicar for the Santa Barbara Pastoral Region, offers three great ideas to winter through the Pandemic of the Coronavirus. First, he quoted Blaise Pascal saying that one of the biggest problems in the world is the inability of the human person to be silent and alone with himself in his room. Then the Bishop suggested three practices that many can carry out for the simple reason that we have more free time. It is no longer “I do not have time”, because we do have time.
a) READ THE BIBLE. Take advantage of this time-out, retreat-break, enclosed-monastic circumstance given by God’s love and generosity to plumb the depths of the knowledge of God and His love for you by reading and meditating upon God’s love-letter to you. The eloquent Bishop suggests starting with the Gospels, preferably St. Matthew. As a method he suggests the use of the classical method Lectio Divina, which consists of Lectio—read carefully because God is speaking to you; Meditatio—ruminate (like the cow “chewing the cud”), in other words strive to really understand God’s message; Oratio—talk to God from your heart; Contemplatio—bathe in the warmth of God’s love.
b) READ THE CLASSICS. The learned Bishop suggests reading three classics, but this of course is not exhaustive. These three are among his favorites. St. Augustine and The Confessions. Then from St. Benedict, the Founder of the Benedictines, The Rule of St. Benedict. Finally, the Auxiliary Bishop suggests the classic of Thomas Merton, The Seven Story Mountain. In a word, this is a time to nourish our hearts but also to cultivate our minds with the truth by reading and assimilating the classics!
c) NATURE WALK. God can speak to us in many ways—the Word of God, the Sacraments, the classics, the saints, circumstances, but also the beauty of nature reflects the beauty of the Creator. Get out and take a nature walk, and leave your iPhone at home to rest!
5. OUR LADY: OUR LIFE, OUR SWEETNESS AND OUR HOPE—UNDOER OF KNOTS… As the best of Mothers, Mary the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, and our own loving Mother is very close to all of us, and to each and every one of us individually, in our trials. In the most difficult time in the life of her Son, Jesus the suffering Savior, as He hung on the cross with drops of His Precious Blood dripping to the ground, Mary His loving and strong Mother valiantly stood next to Him at the foot of the cross. Indeed, in the midst of His most cruel, excruciating, and atrocious tortures and sufferings, His Mother Mary was one of His greatest consolations. Now more than ever, Mary so ardently desires to stand side by side with us, you and me, to walk with us, talk to us, listen to us and console us. This beautiful prayer should resound powerfully in the depths of our hearts: “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided….” (The Memorare)
In conclusion friends in Jesus and Mary, in the midst of the trials, struggles, battles and bitter contradictions of life, Jesus and Mary want to walk with us, listen to us, talk to us, accompany us, and simply to be with us, filling us with trust and the firm hope that if God is with us, who can be against us! “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want….” Remember the most consoling words of Jesus, the last words before He ascends to Heaven: “Behold I am with you always, even until the end of the world.”