One of my good friends called me other day and challenged me with a throbbing question: “Friend, where is our God in this ruthless and painful pandemic (Covid-19)? Has he gone hiding?” Shocked was I. I could not answer her convincingly but made me to think, think and think. I was reminded of Psalmist’s agonising dilemma, “My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?” (Ps 42:3). Many of you too may be asking the same question and still looking for convincing answers!
We are all going through a very terrible and unprecedent time these days. I do not think any one of us would have had in our life time experiences like these. Never again, it may happen to us. Look at the entire world. The world has changed and it will never be the same again! Practically, the whole world is in silent or standby mode or with pause button on. Entire space is totally free of aircrafts. Railway lines remain completely idle. Roads are so empty making ways for the wild animals to play and dance. Most of us are inside the four walls of our homes doing unusually strange things. All of us are going through anxieties, worries, tensions, disappointments, depressions, frustrations, uncertainties, etc. The degree may vary but no one is exempted.
As Christians, as consecrated persons, what are we supposed to do? Obviously, we have to strictly adhere to all the guidelines and standard operation procedures (SOP) laid down by the government, the civil authorities. Well, as consecrated persons what more should we do?
Certainly, as consecrated persons our primary duty is to be with the Lord (cf. Mk 3:14). This is the time to pray, pray and pray. It is a time to pray for all the victims of this virus and all those who are suffering as the side effect of this pandemic. Imagine the sufferings of the poor, homeless, migrants, daily coolies, those living in the slums, path vendors, shop owners, auto and taxi drivers and so on. The list of the most vulnerable people in this punishing pandemic will go on and on. Our prayer and solidarity can be our valuable contribution. But let us not limit with this. Perhaps, we can also do whatever material help is possible by us, including opening our halls and kitchens for them.
It is also a time to listen, listen to the silent whisperings of God. Possibly our God is speaking to us through the happenings of these days. As the psalmist says, “The mighty one, God the Lord speaks” (cf. Ps 50:1). Our God is not dumb. He is not a silent God. He speaks to us through different ways. Of course, he speaks so powerfully through the events and experiences. In the book of Exodus, God spoke to Pharaoh of Egypt through plague. Prophet Amos mentions of God speaking to the people of Israel though nature, pestilence and plague (cf. 4:6-13). It is a time to tell God like Samuel, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening!” (cf. 1Sam 3:10). God is speaking and he wants us to listen to him attentively. Often this busy world of computers, internet and mobiles is so noisy that we do not listen to the gentle voice of God, the silence of the heart. What is the message that God wants to communicate to us individually, to our community, to our Church and to our country and to the world at large?
As consecrated persons, we are all used to big institutions and magnificent buildings — Churches, universities, colleges, schools, social centres, retreat and renewal centres, training centres, hostels, hospitals, big formation houses, etc. We are used to institution-centred life, work-centred life and “Martha-like” life. These days most of our Institutions are closed. Our regular activities including celebrating the Holy Mass every morning is stopped. For most of the consecrated persons, with the pausing of the institutions, their life has lost its meaning and purpose. Life has become so boring with no thrill and frill. Perhaps God is inviting us for God-centred life than institution-centred life, activity-centred life and ministry-centred life. As God reveals through prophet Hosea, “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offering” (6:6).
Prophet Haggai warned the people of Israel that all the misfortunes happened because the temple was in ruin. He exhorted them to consider how they had fared and encouraged them to rebuild the temple (cf. 1:3-11). Prophet meant rebuilding Jerusalem temple after the Babylonian destruction. But what does “rebuilding the temple” mean to us today? Paul beautifully puts it, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1Cor 3:16). It is a time to rebuild our temple. Everything will be beautiful and wonderful once our temples i.e. our bodies, our lives are rebuilt. It is a time to consider how we fared so far and take necessary corrective measures in rebuilding our “temples”.
Though Churches are closed, masses are no more celebrated in public, we can still be very close to God. Genuine spirituality is not mere rituals. It is beyond that. Genuine spirituality is beyond religiosities, rules, routines and exterior observances. Perhaps, God is asking us today to move on from exteriority to interiority, from religiosity to spirituality, from duplicity to genuineness. This is what it means when Jesus teaches the confused Samaritan woman saying, “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is sprit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:2324).1
Nothing happens without the knowledge of God. If God has allowed this devastation to happen, there must be some message that God wants to communicate. And it is our responsibility to listen, discern and find out that message. But who are we to question God? God’s ways are mysterious. Our small human mind cannot comprehend many of God’s ways. It does not mean that God has abandoned us. He is with is. He is with us all the more. We need to be strong and courageous. We should not be frightened or dismayed for the Lord our God is with us where ever we go (cf. Jos 1:9). All we need to do is surrender to Him and to His will. Like Job, we too should surrender and acknowledge, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know [Italicised by me for emphasis]” (Job 42:2-3).
Fr. M. Arul Jesu Robin, CMF
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