Have you heard about the pandemic? Of course you have, there’s no escaping it. Over the past week we’ve all had to come to terms with our current reality, and everyone has their take: “It isn’t being taken seriously enough.” “It’s being used to cause panic.” “They’re trying to control us.” “They aren’t helping us.” Between all the memes and the guidelines, the political stances and economic impact trajectory, it’s hard to escape this virus from being your every thought, while at the same time resisting being desensitized to its reality.
Honestly, I was trying not to pay too much attention to it. Then it happened— my ministry was impacted, and my Sunday Mass obligation.
Things I’d been planning, praying into, working, and worrying tirelessly for were stripped away from me. “Upset” would be an understatement. Then, they started restricting the way I worship God. Some of us love to hug our friend at the sign of peace, shake our neighbor’s hand and give them a consoling squeeze and smile, some of us love to receive Our Lord on the tongue, some of us need to receive the Precious Blood in order to receive at all (due to dietary reasons). Suddenly we can’t worship the way we want, and some of us are even asked to stay home and not participate in public worship at all.
Personally, I’ve been having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I can’t receive My Lord in the way I feel is the most reverent, and the thought that, in a couple of weekends, I may not being able to receive Him at all is hard to imagine. Suddenly, all those times when I willingly put myself in a position of not being able to receive the Eucharist (because of the state of my soul) become all the more upsetting.
As I pray with this, struggling with what to do, I realize: This is still Lent. And the theme of so many Lenten devotionals, reflections, bible studies, etc. has been, “Into the Desert”. And suddenly I see that Christ is leading me into the desert now more than ever.
We all have our preferred ways of participating at Mass, and how beautiful it is that we can tailor our experiences at Mass to our style, culture, etc. But what happens when that is stripped away with no warning? Well, what happens is Christ still shows up. Christ is still on the altar, extending His reach to us. And, as I fumble through an unfamiliar way of doing things, He shows me how frail and stubborn my ways are, how frail my ministry is.
Young adults (such as myself) are all about meeting people where they’re at, and we do that through community, human formation, and healing. As a culture that’s where we are at and what we need. But as of March 2020, they are at home. So that’s where we will speak to them, in a personal desert. This is not the desert I was expecting, this is not how I had planned to worship God this Lent. I wanted public adoration, Stations of the Cross, bible studies, daily mass, all of it!
But then I think of the Desert Fathers and I am reminded that they were often only able to attend liturgy once a year, yet they are some of the holiest men and women the Church has ever known. I was reading some of their writings and an elder said, “Do not be discouraged if physical sickness comes upon you. Who are you to take offense if your Lord-and-Master wishes you to be afflicted in body? Does He not care for you in every way? Could you live without Him? Resign yourself and beseech God to grant you what is appropriate, that is, according to His Will; remain patiently in your cell, eating charity.”
I may not be physically sick, but one of my older, or physically weaker brothers or sisters could become sick because of me, and that makes this a moral issue. And I could use some more charity to eat. I think we all could.
We have so many reasons and excuses why we shouldn’t have to do things the way we’re being advised and why we shouldn’t have to change our schedules or habits, but we can’t outrun this any longer. There is no way around this desert, only through.
Picking up your cross and walking may look different than what you’re used to for the next month or so, it may not look like what you think sacrifice looks like, but I think we should do it regardless. I’ve been learning lately that the sacrifices I like to make are often grand and dramatic, while the ones I need to make look smaller or “easier” when in actuality they chip away at my pride. This is a chance for us to truly enter into Lent, just us and Jesus. May we not give in to Satan’s temptations but dismiss them the way Christ did not once, but three times in the desert.