I think we all hope that we are on the tail end of this pandemic. We can get used to anything, even bad times. But this thing has worn out its welcome (if there was ever any!). Learning to move on is an art form. Sometimes when things are intolerable, we want to just head for the hills as fast as we can.
But sometimes, we may complain, yet we linger. People who have worked with inmates in our prisons tell us that they get so used to the routine and having a place to sleep and food each day to eat, they are afraid when they are told that they are free.
Dostoyevsky once wrote in one of his novels that there is nothing we fear more than freedom. True freedom requires responsibility. Hence, we have to live with the consequences of the use of our freedom.
One has to, at this point, distinguish between freedom and free will since they are often confused. Free will is the gift of God which enables us to choose between right and wrong and also between different levels of goods. Freedom is the use of free will to co-create this world with God. Freedom is the proper use of free will.
So that one can choose a lot of things using one’s free will yet be totally unfree. The gift of Freedom is the freedom to do the right thing. When one uses the will to do something evil, this is not freedom, but a license to live in bondage and slavery. No matter what the choice, if it is evil, we are slaves.
Which brings me back to the pandemic. We can be very uncomfortable with the lockdown and the lack of choices we have, but if we dedicate ourselves to helping and being of assistance, we are very free even in this pandemic. But if we come out of this and use our free will to sin and do bad things, we are no longer free, even when the pandemic is over.
This is the true mentality that we need to foster as the Pandemic (hopefully) recedes and we begin to live our lives normally again. One of the things that I would have learned if I had not been a priest and had the privilege to receive Holy Communion every day, is how central the Eucharist is to the life of a Christian and how often I took the Mass for granted and did not fully comprehend the gift of receiving the Lord in His completeness in Holy Communion. If we were ever put in prison for being Catholic Christians, that would be one of the real sufferings: to be separated from my Lord and unable to receive Him into my very body.
Now, I understand why the priests in Dachau risked their lives in secretly constructing sacred vessels from tin cans, and how they would have Mass in the dark when the guards were asleep! They even managed to consecrate a bishop in hiddenness! They appreciated the Sacraments as never before!
These tough few months have been great teachers to all of us. It is often when we lose our bearings and humbly open ourselves to God’s guidance that we can see a new reality being born through renewed appreciation.
The Catholic Church is going through a kind of period of purification and renewal. Trouble is we cannot see what the new Church will be. There is death all around us: dying institutions, dying friends and people we looked up to, dying clarity of vision. It takes great faith to see in these endings, the hand of God bringing forth new life.
I remember growing up in the fifties: full churches, flourishing schools and institutions, tons of vocations. The Church was the center of life and of the neighborhood. All of that has changed. What is left is Faith, pure and simple. All the props and helps are gone. We need to stand on our own two feet and give ourselves to Christ in an act of surrender and filial obedience.
To believe that in these endings, we are beginning a new chapter of Christ’s love is the task before us. What the Church will look like in the future is hidden from us. All we have is trust.
And that is enough.
“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will act And make your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like noonday” (Psalms 37:5).