By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published February 5, 2021
Fear is becoming a dominant force, as the pandemic radically changes our lives. There’s a poem by T.S. Eliot about growing old with the plaintive line, “Do I dare to eat a peach?”
Now we ask, “Do I dare to go to a restaurant? Hug my friends? Go to Mass?” We dance around each other, nervous we’re getting too close. We postpone visiting relatives who live in other cities.
How do we get through these troubled times?
It’s unlikely God will appear to us and proclaim everything will be fine. We probably won’t see the sky open and angels flying around.
Truth be told, the only escape from life’s troubles comes from surrendering to God, who is defined clearly in St. John’s Gospel: “God is love.”
God reveals his love to us, sometimes when we least expect it. When I told my cousin’s wife, Rachelle, that my big fear is getting the virus and combatting it alone, she didn’t hesitate for a second.
“You’re not alone. I’m only four hours away and I’d come down and take care of you.”
Tears filled my eyes when she said that, because I felt God’s love so strongly.
God also shows his love through what I call the sacred moments of an ordinary day.
Each year I await the migration of the sandhill cranes as they fly in formation across the sky. I thought I’d missed them this year, until I went next door to see my neighbor’s new puppy.
As I was petting the little fellow and talking with my neighbor’s little girls, I looked up and saw the familiar lines of honking birds crossing the sky. The puppy, the little girls and the cranes composed a sacred moment.
Whenever I’m at the beach, I get up before sunrise, so I can witness that moment when the sky comes alive with a fiery glow. If dolphins are bobbing through the waves, I count them as a bonus.
God also bestows his perfect love for us in Scripture, which overflows with comforting words. “Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful,” Jesus said.
This means no matter what is happening—pandemic, economic distress, social unrest—Jesus offers peace that transcends these worldly events.
He also said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The world has always been filled with troubles, such as diseases, natural disasters and violence. Expecting our lives to be hassle-free is senseless, since suffering visits everyone.
One suffering comes in the form of fear—fear of illness, loneliness, job loss. St. John tells us “Perfect love casts out fear.” But what does this mean?
Human love is imperfect, which means the people we love will fail us. It also means loving other people can lead to great disappointment. As someone who lost the love of her life, I can attest to this fact.
God’s love is perfect, so it never changes and never ends. He won’t die and leave us alone. He won’t befriend us and then change his mind.
Only by truly realizing the extent of God’s love can we be healed of fear, but this doesn’t happen overnight. We have to catch ourselves every time the demon of fear strikes.
We might ask ourselves what lies at the heart of the fear. Often it is apprehension about death, which comes from lack of faith in Christ’s promises. Is death the worst thing that can happen to us? Our culture says yes, but for Christians the answer is no, since it leads to eternal life.
During these troubled times, we must turn to the Lord throughout the day and say, “Thy will, not my will, be done.” And remind ourselves of Christ’s words. “Take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We discover the heart of perfect love in the Eucharist and in Scripture. We also find perfect love in the sacred moments of each day. And through simple acts of kindness, such as the beautiful words: “You’re not alone.”
“Music of the Ainur” (oil painting) by Jef Murray. Lorraine’s email is email@example.com.