How quickly things change. A few weeks ago humanity was strutting about with self-confidence, engaged in a secular quest of hedonism and excess. But then a virus popped the bubble of complacency and the illusion was shattered. The winds of change blew and we find ourselves thrown into a period of uncertainty; our frailty and mortality suddenly very obvious. It seems as if our faces are being ground into the Lenten ash this year. Which of us can fail to remember now that ‘we are dust and to dust we shall return’?
Amidst this unsettling chaos of pandemic Christians face an added hurdle. Public worship is suspended. How are we to keep faith alive without the Mass? How will we get through this bewildering period without the sacraments to sustains us in hours of need?
I cannot be the only drawing parallels with the fate of Christians today and that of the Jews when they were thrown into exile? When they experienced loss the Jews sat by the rivers of Babylon and wept and they remembered Zion. How easily we take things for granted until they are taken from us! God was calling them on a journey, one that would involve hardship and challenge but it was also a journey intended for their spiritual development and growth. Perhaps we in the church have grown too complacent? Perhaps the Lord thinks we need a reminder of what matters in life?
It is certainly interesting to note that in scripture man tends to lose faith in comfort, consider Eden, but discover it in times of trial, as in the wilderness. Perhaps the world needs this time of anguish to rediscover faith in God? Perhaps a time when material comfort cannot sustain us we will rediscover the value of family and of loving neighbour more than self? Perhaps we needed to be shaken from comfort to wake up to the errors of the modern world; the lack of virtue and loss of morality that is only to evident in the empty supermarket shelves all around us?
As they stumbled through the desert the people of Israel were often tempted to grumble and complain. Life seemed impossibly hard and the comforts they had known had vanished. But God was with them and in their hours of need he sent them manna from heaven. The journey was not in vain and it led eventually to the promised land.
Let us learn from the exile of our Jewish forebears. Let us not grumble though hardships are real and we will be tested. Instead let us turn fear to hope and trust God to provide. Let us have confidence that amidst the gloom light will be found. Good things will happen, new opportunities unfold. How might you become a better person in this time of crisis? How might you serve God and other people? How will you grow?
The message of the Exile is simple. As long as we don’t abandon God then his hand will guide us and he will be with us. And please note how his being with us doesn’t mean challenges vanish for faith never was a magic wand to remove obstacles only ever a gift that brings strength to overcome.
Stay close to God and you will emerge stronger on the other side of this crisis. In heaven and on earth. How will you keep faith alive in this time of Exile? Tomorrow I will provide ideas and links to enable this to be done.