I find it a bit ironic that during the Lenten season, we were advised to stay at home in “quarantine.” Lent is traditionally “forty days,” reminding us of the forty days Jesus spent in the desert. “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, and afterwards he was hungry.” (Matt 4:1-2).
The word “quarantine” comes from the root quarantena for “forty days.” The practice of quarantine has been used during plagues, isolating people for 40 days to prevent the spread of the disease-causing pandemics. How are we called to live out our faith in this time of isolation?
Our Roman Catholic faith is practiced within a community of like-minded believers. We are joyful when gathered together to celebrate Mass, to study Scripture, and to partake in social activities and meals. How dependent are we on these gatherings? Do they define our faith? I would say that being with others is a great tool to live out our faith. But they do not define our faith, as we are finding out now.
Being together in person is ideal on many levels. But what happens when we are called away, in isolation, in the desert, so to speak? We are forced to find out how strong our faith is. We can look to Jesus. Scripture says that the Spirit led him into the desert. Maybe with our condition of faith life, we are being led into desert-like loneliness, so that we can turn to God, and truly seek His Presence within us. Is he calling us to a deeper faith, more dependent on Him? Have we taken the time to build up a meaningful relationship with Him? Or have we been dependent on physical, sacramental, tangible elements of our faith?
We’ve been given the time to put things in order, faith-wise. Yes, I miss daily Mass, Communion, sacramental life, seeing others, seeing beautiful statues and images within the church building. We’ll get back to those one day, hopefully soon.
Meanwhile, we have been given the gift of time to work on our personal relationship with Jesus, which, by the way, naturally flows into relationship with others. The 2 greatest commandments, Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength… and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12: 29-31). One of my favorite passages is Micah 6:8, “This is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk with your God.” This passage sums up our calling to live as followers of Christ.
I find that spending time alone to reflect on who I am, where I have been, and who I have known leads to more awareness of time passing. I ponder why we are here, and what we are called to do. We are called to help others however we can, sewing face masks, writing letters, making phone calls, delivering meals, or simply praying for others, especially the sick and care givers. We are also called to just be. Yes, just be who we are in the eyes of Christ. Spend time with Him in a quiet place with no distractions, or on a walk outside, taking in the lessons He offers us in nature. And, be grateful for the moment of now. Desert time can be cleansing, healing, even relaxing.
We are called to open our eyes and make room in our hearts to welcome Christ as our other self, the one who guides us and loves us so closely that we can never be separated from Him. We can then only wonder, “What will the next forty days be like?”
May 14, 2020