These days, we will be fighting a battle mostly in our thoughts.
Which words would we least like to hear from Jesus right now? Could it be these?
“Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone.” (John 16:32)
The sad truth is that like the apostle—to whom these words were first addressed—we too, at one time or another, have scattered and deserted the Lord. The truth of it, the horror of that fact, would be unbearable if it were not for the mercy of God. After the resurrection, Jesus always greets the apostles with the words, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19) Who could have dared hope for such mercy?
This is a hard time for faithful Catholics. We’re all under stress. It’s easy to panic, or to worry ourselves sick by trying to anticipate every contingency, to plan for absolutely everything that could go wrong. I recall what the philosopher Camus said, “Any idiot can survive a crisis. It’s the little things that will drive you crazy.”
We can go mad worrying about the little things, and we can let the big things crush us. We can convince ourselves that we are fighting our battles alone, that there is no help or hope for us. And in that moment, we are scattered and we leave the Lord alone. In other words, if we want to have the faith that moves mountains, we must focus on the mountain-mover and not on the mountain.
Jesus said, “In the world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) The poet William Butler Yeats said,
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
If all that we knew was from news and social media, it would seem like that enemies of the Church are confidently at the top of their game, while the good guys are still looking under the couch for a missing shoe to put on. In such times of frustration, grief and anger, we must see that we have a choice. We can panic and run away from the Lord. Or we can choose to remember and act upon the words of Jesus who said, “… take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)
Whatever the world can throw at it us, it does not have to separate us from God. The cross of Christ reaches beneath it all, and the resurrection rises above it. We are on the winning side, of course; at the same time we must do more than simply await the distribution of the spoils. We have to unite ourselves to Christ who is crucified, risen, and, yes, even now—reigning.
Let’s get practical. These days, we will be fighting a battle mostly in our thoughts. That’s why Saint Paul said, “Put on the helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17) and “Hold every thought captive for Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
We will be tempted to tell ourselves that the pains and burdens are unbearable and that this misery will last forever. We will be tempted to tell ourselves to obey our fear, because God cannot be trusted. All of that is a lie! Crowd out the lies with truth. Let’s remind ourselves of all the times that God has been faithful to us in the past, and that God is still in charge. Let’s do what is humanly possible, and commend the rest to God. Let’s stay in the present. Let’s focus on the present grace to meet the present challenge and leave the rest to God. Before going to sleep, bury the day in God’s mercy.
My friends, we’re all stressed and hurting right now. Let’s promise to pray for each other in the coming days, that Christ’s own peace, which Saint Paul says is beyond all understanding (Philippians 4:7), may reign in our hearts.
When I write next, I will offer another meditation on the Easter season. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.