The following reflection is from Walt Jagela, a priest-member of the AUSCP from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
After much listening, observing and, going deep within, it is apparent that the times in which we are living are like nothing we have ever experienced as a people in our own time and space. Our ancestors of old experienced pandemic and much worse as we learn from reading and listening to history. History can seem so far distant yet so near. However, as a people living today in 2020, we too are part of this legacy in which we attempt to navigate our circumstances. Circumstances do not dictate the totality of our lives but propel us forward to live better lives.
As a person in ministry, I am struck at the various responses to this pandemic and all that pandemic has asked of us. The year 2020 is a year of letting go. The pandemic has forced us to “sit down, slow up and get to the heart”. We are not accustomed to slowing down, sitting a spell nor going into the heart of what is essential for our lives. Our lives up to March of 2020 had been a rat race, always in motion and not quite taking into account others’ needs, including our own. It is almost like we exchanged one trauma for another. Our present circumstance must move us forward, embracing the unknown, caring for all our sisters and brothers without distinction. This is the authenticity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
I am reminded of a quote by Richard Rohr from his book entitled, The Universal Christ.Richard states, “Authentic God experience always expands your seeing and never constricts it. What else would be worthy of God? In God you do not include less and less; you always see and love more and more. The more you transcend your small ego, the more you can include.”We, as a people of faith, are challenged to live authentically. Authenticity is about expressing genuinely one’s self and putting ego to rest! To live authentically is not a matter of function but to live with heart and determination of how God in God’s wisdom created, redeemed and sustains us in our lives. Our ministry as a people of God is not simply a “function” because function is a myopic lens in which to live our lives. If we are to love and minister among the people, we must wake up the love within our hearts and not simply obey a command. Obedience is usually about “cleaning up”, love is about waking up. It is time to Wake Up!
What have we, as a people, “woken up to” all these months of pandemic? Have we looked, lived and based our lives around the falsehood of the past living or are we working towards a differing vision that draws us to the very heart of who we are? I believe we are called from our baptism to be stabilizers that lead each of us to have the courage to walk with others, including ourselves, patiently and with grace. Walking with others, accompanying them along the journey of faith is a road less traveled in this day and age within the church and society. We all want “our own way” rather than the Way of the Gospel. Gospel calls us to be Good News to the poor, raising up the fallen, giving assistance to the sick and liberty to those held captive.
As we move closer to the close of 2020; we are a pandemic people but a People of God in Jesus Christ, propelled by the Holy Spirit to be grateful for who we are and what we have. We are called to witness to what is essential in our lives and not be bogged down by the extra pounds that are not ours to carry. In Holy Father Francis’ new encyclical entitled, Fratelli Tutti Francis teaches us that this “time of pandemic tragedy has revived the sense that we are a global community”.I believe once we learn this concept of global community; we will see ourselves as our Jewish sisters and brothers teach us, that we are saved as a people! The problems of one are the problems of all, whether we know them or not. Whether they look like us, talk like us, believe like us or live like us. This is not some sort of socialist theory but the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the One whom we profess and receive each week.
To conclude, I offer this summary for our consideration, meditation and, overall prayerfulness:
We are not abandoned along this road.
Our story like “The Story” is constantly unfolding and being retold in differing ways because the Gospel is not static.
We are the characters of our story: black, white, Latino, various Brown Skin, Asian, Gay, Straight, Bi, Trans and still searching. Each elegant in our own way.
We must start anew seeing with eyes of faith not eyes of religion. Each day is a new opportunity and a new possibility to be co-responsible for one another.
This difficulty, pandemic inconvenience is an opportunity for growth and greater vision and not complaining and aggravation.
We must not abandon one another along this journey but lift one another up and not count the cost.
May we be authentic, life-giving, open and, patient people to reach the other side with greater love of one another and totally ourselves in mind, body and spirit!
Que se nos autorice, que se de vida, abierta y paciente a llegar al otro lado con un mayor amor entre si y, totalmente nosotros mismos en mente, cuerpo y espiritu.
Peace with Every Breath,