May 19, 2020
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Signs

During this pandemic, The New York Times ran an article “Before Virus Outbreak, a Cascade of Warnings Went Unheeded.” (NYT, 19 March 2020) Taiwan accused the WHO of not heeding its warning of “Coronavirus Human-to-Human Transmission.” (National Review, 20 March 2020) The WHO called for countries to “Heed This Warning Now.” (Common Dreams, 25 March 2020)  I don’t know which adage fits: “Hindsight is 20/20” or “Closing the barn door after the horse has gone.” Pundits everywhere are discussing “missing the signs.”

Yes, we missed the signs. It took the enormity of a global pandemic to catch our attention.

The problem is that we routinely get catastrophic “signs” all the time. The world is going to end on…, a giant meteor is headed to earth, global warming is going to end life on earth, social security is done. As Christians, we do know there will be an end to the world. Fr. Rocky on Relevant Radio reminds us the mortality rate for humanity is 100%. We just don’t know the “day or the hour.” (Matthew 24:36) Scripture tells us to be ready. However, most of us go on as if tomorrow is guaranteed.

I don’t know about you, but I miss signs all the time. I fool myself into believing that I am too busy to notice. I typically miss meetings if I don’t continually check my calendar to see where I’m supposed to be. I tend to skim email headings. My youngest daughter basically only replies to me via Snapchat. We are all running around too much while balancing a life in 2020 that is asking us to always be “online” and available. We need to make ourselves a little less “available and turn off the smartphone more often.

The problem in this environment is that our senses get dulled. We fool ourselves into thinking “my wife knows I love her” rather than taking the time to say, “I love you.” We run out the door saying, “love you dad” as a synonym for saying “goodbye.” My spiritual mentor, Fr. Welsh, always told me “text without context is meaningless.” We typed the text. In our minds, we are saying the words. In reality, however, we are not. The people we are speaking to don’t feel the love. Neither of us notice. We are not really paying attention anyway.

Ignatius tells us to see God in all things. I’m lucky to look outside the window and notice the weather. Perhaps this is one of the gifts of the pandemic. Don’t get me wrong, I am not demeaning or understating the hardship people are experiencing. However, living under a mandated social distancing order, I am noting there are better ways to spend our day than binging on Netflix or watching YouTube videos. It is a wonderful time to “listen in the silence.”

In the pandemic, people are asking, “where is God in all this?” Look around. I see people pondering their faith. I see miracles. People coming together to help others. First responders and healthcare workers are risking self to help others. For a few weeks, even the nasty political division that has plagued our country for decades was minimized. (and sadly, returning) In missing the sacraments, people are taking them less for granted.

In essence, people are looking again for signs. However, we are looking in the wrong place. In our search we are blinded by social norm. We are looking without pondering. We are looking outward when we should be focusing inward. Jesus once addressed this. He said, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:31)

Even if someone rises from the dead! Mmmm. What is he talking about? 

Yep, 9 a.m. Mass is on Sunday’s calendar. Got ya covered Jesus. Try not to let the Pastor talk too long, ok? I’ve got a lawn to mow. Go ahead and start if I get there at 9:10 a.m. I had a late night. Love ya God!

Perhaps if we simply spend ten minutes a day in this pandemic reflecting on our response to “they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” the world may stop spinning so fast. Let’s stop making Jesus “my buddy” and make him “Lord” again. Not the Lord of Heaven and Earth, which he is, but the “Lord” of my life. Jesus is either three things: (1) a liar, (2) delusional or (3) God. Read Lee Strobel’s A Case for Christ or Brant Pitre’s The Case for Jesus. They both address the existence of Jesus and the evidence. Their conclusion is secondary. Our individual conclusion is of utmost importance. Do we really accept Jesus as God?

It is the fundamental question in Catholicism. We live in a community of faith. Our parents prepared us for the sacraments and ran the domestic Church. However, at some point we must stand up and answer the “Who is Jesus Christ?” question for ourselves. How we answer must determine our future. If we accept Jesus as God, if He rose from the dead… our lives must change. Our reflection isn’t to “Wake the World” as Pope Francis said but to wake up each one of us individually. If Jesus is God, we must not only heed his worlds but live his commandments. My calendar pales in importance.

We get lost in the noise of our lives for we’ve let our faith be drown out. The flame of faith is flickering in this extinguishing rather than lighting up the room. Faith is to be lived, not memorized. It should burn. It should enrage us as we walk in this world and energize us when we pray. My calendar ran my life for I gave my control up to it. I need to take it back. Look around. Our first step is to take it back by being thankful. Cry, laugh, dance. Embrace the emotions of life rather than be socially distant from them! Know that in this pandemic, we are not in control. We never were. God is. Perhaps rather than worrying on what God is doing, we focus on our response.

Jesus has been raised from the dead. Embrace the sign.

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Written by
Deacon Gregory Webster