4th Week in Ordinary Time (b)
A hospital chaplain I know told me recently that she found it hard to think about God these days. I know her well and know that she is a good catholic. But this pandemic is affecting her in this way. She just finds it hard to think about God. And I suspect she is like many other good catholics at this time. I remember when my mother was dying, she told me how hard she found it to pray. It wasn’t exactly the same thing as this young chaplain but here was my mother, a life long catholic, admitting that she couldn’t pray. I told her that she shouldn’t be surprised at this. It is one thing to turn to God and pray when all is rosy, it is another when life is like it is today: difficult, boring, never-ending lockdown.
It is at times like this that we feel so weak and vulnerable. Our faith can seem so shallow. We know we should think about God, we know we should pray, but we don’t always find it easy. The difficulties and problems that this pandemic have created seem too big, even for God. They are not, of course, but they can seem this way when we are at our lowest. So, the gospel of today is a reassurance. We see Jesus the teacher and the healer. He teaches because he is a prophet and he heals because he heals with the power of God. He heals a man with an unclean spirit; we would say he was possessed. Not a nice thing to be possessed. You are no longer in control; something else is in control of you. It must be so frightening, also for those who live with such a person. When Jesus heals this man the people are astonished. They have never seen anything like this; “he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.” This is because Jesus has the power to do this; he is a god-given healer, as well as a teacher.
And the power of God in Christ isn’t dead. It is true that Christ died 2,000 years ago but his power and authority live on in the Church. If you feel this lockdown is all getting a bit too much, if you feel lonely and vulnerable, then do make an act of faith. Close you eyes and realize that Christ is with you, near you, to help you. He is not just a friend, he is more than a friend; that is to say, he has the power to lift you out of the doom and gloom that you are experiencing. So, one might ask, why doesn’t he do it now? Why does he have to wait till we are at our lowest. I can’t answer that question. But maybe because he wants to show his power in our weakness. His grace is working in us now, to help us and to make us stronger. We don’t see it. But I dare to say that when this is all over we shall look back and see his hand at work. In the darkness we shall have drawn much closer to him. And, I dare to say, we will say: it was worth it. It was worth that negative experience so that I could feel the power and love of God over me. This is what we mean by grace; that mysterious yet real power of God working in and through me. Yes, grace is amazing.