Forward into the Future...with Hope!
Fellow Franciscan-Priest, Richard Rohr, has a new book coming out soon. I read a ‘blurb’ that describes some of the subject matter that he writes about. It says: “Progress is never a straight and uninterrupted line, but we have all been formed by the Western Philosophy of Progress that tells us it is, leaving us despairing and cynical…We are indeed ‘saved’ by knowing and surrendering to this universal pattern of reality. Knowing the full pattern allows us to let go of our first order, trust the disorder, and, sometimes even hardest of all—to trust the new order. Three big leaps of faith for all of us, and each of a different character.”
That is the message of this weekends gospel-lesson. We are brought back to the night of Holy Thursday where we hear Jesus preparing His disciples for his departure from this earthly existence. Tucked into the middle of this passage are some of the most memorable and important verses of St. John’s Gospel:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
“In my Fathers house there are many rooms.”
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
“If you ask for anything, I will do it.”
Although each of these phrases are important both in a biblical sense and in matters of faith, we should not overlook the emotions that the disciples are feeling. They are confused. They are filled with fear, especially after hearing Him telling them about His impending death. Then they are confused when He says that they know where He is going. Thomas immediately reacts and says: “No, we don’t! That is the voice of frustration coming from a loving disciple. He is not denying his relationship with the Lord but is afraid that it is the end for him and the others. Then without skipping a beat, Philip shares his own insecurity with Jesus and the others by asking that the Lord, “show us the Father.” He too wants to hold on to Jesus and not let Him go, for a very real and selfish reason…he loves the Lord so much. Jesus responds to him saying; “…if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”
Both Thomas and Philip voice their emotions and faith very clearly. They fear absence, already feel a rush of longing, and must verbally protest that they are not comfortable with what is about to happen and what the uncertain future will bring. Going into week #7 of isolation, can we relate to their feelings and apply it to our own situation? For me, the answer is yes on several levels. No one of us ever saw this pandemic coming and could have imagined its impact on the entire world. Also, none of us could have imagined that we would be in this situation, and will be, for months and years to come. As we move forward there is an unsureness about the loosening of restrictions along with the unknown fear if it is safe to leave home and mingle with others, even observing all the necessary precautions. For me it is also the unknown…what will my life, our worship, our church be like moving forward? We do not know but unlike the disciples we cannot give into fear or disillusionment.
We know and accept that Jesus retained His divinity with the Father and the Holy Spirit while assuming a physical body and personality. We also believe that He was like us in all things but sin. He then knew the full impact of human sorrow, confusion, disappointment, and lament. He shared our human condition proving that God not only cares but understands our situations. Therefore, we must hear those words of Jesus that I pointed out earlier in this writing…and must believe them! We must acknowledge the pain inflicted upon millions of people by this virus. We must own the fear that we may have as we go forward in our daily lives. And if there is confusion coming our way, we must trust that we are not travelling down these unknow paths alone. To accomplish these ways of behaving I suggest that we adopt Philips words and ask the Lord ‘to show us the Father’. I am also going to keep reminding myself of Jesus’ words that… “He is the way, the truth, and the life.” If you and I can do this, then we have embraced the cross of this pandemic and then can appreciate new life which is part of resurrection.
I am not saying that faith makes all things easier. Rather, it can give us more hope and meaning and hopefully displace our fear and anxiety. The quote from Fr. Richard Rohr’s new book makes complete sense to me given our situation. “knowing the full pattern (of life) allows us to go over our first order,” the ways we were used to in our lives. If we accept that we are living in frightening times, then we might be able to let go of our negative thinking because we have identified it. We will need to “trust disorder,” meaning that this pandemic will have to run its course but that we will do everything possible to stop it. He further says: “and, sometimes even the hardest of all—to trust the reorder.” We must face the reality that even our ‘Order of Worship’ or ways of praying in common, celebrating Mass and the sacraments will be different! After the horrific events of 9-11 we resisted changes that we had to follow. None of us likes to take off our shoes, belts, and coats before going through the TSA scanners…. but we comply! Likewise, many of us will not like having no handshakes or hugs, continually sanitizing our hands, and having to wear masks for an indefinite period. But we will comply! Yes, all of life will be re-ordered from shopping to praying, from singing to playing…it will all be different...and we will comply. Like those disciples we must adopt a new attitude to successfully navigate our lives and faith. I am not saying that we can easily dismiss our uncertainties. What I am saying is that Jesus has already travelled down a similar road, oftentimes alone. The big difference here and now is that He always is accompanying us. He really is the way, truth, and life that leads to the Father. We have not been down this particular path before, but with Him at our side we will be better than okay. He offers life, abundant life…both in this world and the next.
On that Holy Thursday night Jesus was not only telling the disciples what would soon happen, He was also assuring them that He would never abandon them. That is a promise He kept for them…that is a promise He keeps for us.
Looking forward to personally offering you a greeting of Resurrection joy,