patience in the unknowing

The wind blows wherever it pleases;

you hear its sound,

but you cannot tell where it comes from

or where it is going.

John 3:8

Prairie folk know the power of wind. We follow wind forecasts closely with spring floods, summer droughts, and winter storms. Frigid temperatures can drop 10’C or more with wind-chills. Lakes and rivers rise and fall in hours.

Yes, winds blow wherever they please. We try to predict them, but can’t control them.

Most of us are hunkered down in our homes while the uncontrollable blows around us. It was announced today that the state of emergency in our province has been extended another 30 days. This doesn’t come as a surprise. Our local government and health authorities have been working hard to control the uncontrollable and the restrictions are working. We must all do our part. And, we will.

But the winds are howling outside. And, some days, gentle breezes of inner peace are hard to find. Blissful leisure morphs into boredom morphs into anxious thoughts morphs into panic. Staying inside is comforting one minute, and stifling the next.

And the winds keep howling.

We inherited some patio furniture with our house. Hubby just brought the first chair out. It’s a wee reminder of deck time – our favourite time of the year. We’re yearning to gather with family and friends around the BBQ with cool drinks in hand.

The chairs are amazing for another reason. The mightiest winds have never toppled them. The loosely woven wicker allows the wind to blow through and around. Meanwhile, heavier and more solid items get knocked over or roll around the yard.

I know there’s a lesson to be learned. Something about letting go and letting God? Being more mindful to the moment? Learning to breath through the storms? Bend with the winds? Face the unknowing with patience and faith?

But it’s hard.

a ‘contagion’ of hope

The proclamation of hope, new life and victory over death, he said, should be “a different ‘contagion,’ a message transmitted from heart to heart, for every human heart awaits this good news,” he said.

“This is no magic formula that makes problems vanish,” the pope said. “No, the resurrection of Christ is not that. Instead, it is the victory of love over the root of evil, a victory that does not bypass suffering and death, but passes through them, opening a path in the abyss, transforming evil into good: this is the unique hallmark of the power of God.”

Pope calls for a ‘contagion’ of Easter hope, peace, care for the poor. National Catholic Reporter

We don’t want to hear about contagion during a time of pandemic. The word evokes images of infected particles flying through the air, seeking to make their home in an otherwise healthy host. We are bombarded with figures and graphs showing how one case of COVID-19 turns to two. To ten. To one hundred. To thousands…

We understand what contagion is. Contagion has shuttered our world, spreading fear and uncertainty. Contagion brings death. Suddenly and unexpectedly.

And yet….

Joy can also be contagious. Laughter infectious.

And, faith can be spread by ‘contagion’. Not by force or threat. Not by grandiose gestures of religiosity. Certainly not by self-righteous proclamations of holiness. For me, a ‘contagious faith” is life-giving and full of energy. It leaves you nourished and strengthened for the journey. It makes you want to “have what they’re having” and, in turn, share it with others.

It’s not an idyllic, Pollyanna approach to faith filled with empty promises of fun, good times and rewards aplenty. Francis reminds us that “there is no magic formula that makes problems vanish”. But, it nudges us to cling to hope promised. Love given. In turn, we share that hope and love. The message gets passed on to one other. Then ten. Then one hundred. Then thousands…

In these dark days, small acts of love are truly contagious. One example is the spread of online movements that offer “good deeds and helpful hands.”

This is the hopeful, heartwarming side of COVID-19 — the spirit of togetherness bred among community members. 

It’s been dubbed “caremongering” -— an online movement offering good deeds and helpful hands. Whether it is getting groceries, giving a ride to medical appointments, or picking up prescriptions…

“It’s really life-saving”: From getting groceries to babysitting, ‘caremongering’ brings communities together. CBC News.

Yes, this Easter has been like no other. But, the message remains the same. Here’s another man who knows the power of inspiring others to good action, and understands what Easter is all about.

And a blessed and joyful Easter from me too!

the creativity of love

Pope Francis has sent a message on YouTube ahead of Holy Week, expressing his solidarity with all who are suffering through this pandemic and gratitude for the “heroes” working on the front lines. He encourages the “best use of time”. To be generous.

Even if we are isolated, thought and spirit can go far with the creativity of love.

Pope Francis

Examples of loving creativity abound, from musicians posting online concerts to a video of a young man in Manchester who uses his one hour of daily outdoor exercise, dressed as Spiderman, delighting children as he runs by with flips and jumps. The world is full of loving, generous souls. A small act can lighten hearts and, more importantly, give hope.

Hope of a better time in which we can be better…finally freed from evil and from this pandemic…hope does not disappoint; it is not an illusion.

Pope Francis

To be creative means to think outside of the box, and we are being challenged to do so with our faith. It’s about new wine and new wine-skins. There is no arguing that we are in “new wine” territory. And, new wine and old wine-skins are a bad match.

Some are arguing that churches are an essential service. Religious freedom an inalienable right. In the US, a petition is currently under way for bishops to allow churches to remain open and sacraments to be celebrated, including taking the sacrament of the sick to hospitals. Fr. James Martin, SJ, in an interview with Anderson Cooper, sees it as “a false distinction between faith and science…and a little bit of pride that runs through these people.” The inverse of the belief that ‘God will keep us healthy because we are believers’ is that those who get sick are sinners. A warped view of God indeed.

Burned in my brain are the words of a local pastor during an Easter homily, “The most important place in the world is inside the four walls of this church.” Though many years have passed, his narrow-minded view of our faith still haunts – and angers – me.

Being Church is not the same as being in church. Daniel P. Horan OFM says it well in an article written for the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) titled For the love of God (literally), stay home, be safe and pray.

These sorts of contrarian arguments are emblematic of a small but vocal crowd of pandemic naysayers in the church that, wittingly or otherwise, reduce everything from church buildings to even the Eucharist itself into symbols of a growing idolatry that minimizes God and restricts God’s presence to a limited number of discrete locations. It’s true that Christ is uniquely present in the Blessed Sacrament, but it’s not true that this is the only way God draws near to humanity and the rest of creation. God’s grace is not scarce nor is God distant from us!

Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Horan goes on to remind us that lack of access to churches or public worship does not mean lack of access to the Divine. Love of neighbour and love of God are not in competition. Right now, staying home IS an act of love.

Creativity seeks new ways for new times. New ways to live faith, hope and love. What are some creative ways that you, your family, or your faith community have discovered to help each other through these days?

See also NCR readers share how they keep spiritually grounded amid crisis .