Everyone I’ve spoken to in these past couple weeks has experienced an inner shaking, an unearthing. Weaknesses and brokenness are being brought to the surface before the Lord in a new way. I’ve seen it range from little things like being a sore loser or having a short temper, to lifelong hurts that have been buried for years with no chance to breathe. And yet we’re going through this unearthing, this shaking, without the sacraments. These times are unprecedented in our church, never before have we seen the church close down globally. Now, we are seeing churches be forced shut entirely in some countries, with just a few offering the celebration of the Mass before a congregation. It is a joy to know that in some parts of the world they are now reopening. Regardless of what stage each country is at, mostly all of us can now say that we have lived in faith with no access to a church at all. And while I hate the whole situation as much as the next person, I see a lesson in it. What happens to our faith when we close the church doors? When I’m taken from the church is the church taken from me? Is my faith built on the building in which our Lord rests? Or will I continue to give myself to Him even when I cannot physically receive Him? Anywhere I look for advice in Catholic circles, it always revolves around living a Sacramental life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, ‘The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life”’ (CCC 1324). We NEED the sacraments. Yet I can’t even go to church and pray. I have such an ache for the sacraments. I know I’m not the only one struggling, but God has given us so many ways to discover Him. To pray is to make yourself present to God. So where can we meet God in all of this?
Meeting God in Intercession
While we are certainly being challenged in our current circumstances, we are blessed in knowing that this is not forever for us. Our churches will soon reopen. It may take longer than we desire, but it will still happen. Whereas, we can look to other nations and see that they have no access to the sacraments, with no hope of ever possibly having access to them. So many Christians face martyrdom today, but for those of us who are blessed to live our faith freely, it can be easy to forget about persecution in the modern-day Church. It can seem other-worldly to think that Christians are dying for their faith. I’m the first to forget about them and the last to pray for them. While it’s a heartbreaking thing to see our brothers and sisters in Christ being persecuted, they are truly a beautiful witness of Christ’s heart for us. The sacred heart of Jesus beats only for us. So much so that He would die on a cross and give His body for us. Christians facing persecution are mirroring the Lord’s love every day. Their belief in Him is a matter of life or death. And even with no access to the sacraments, with no freedom to be part of the Church, they still live out their identity as Christians. They still worship the Lord. That is moving. I’m sure most of us would love to say we would be able to live for Christ no matter the cost. But how many of us could? While we are currently being starved of the sacraments and access to our Church, let’s intercede for those who are living in such grievous circumstances. This is the perfect time to turn our struggles into intercession for brave, persecuted Christians.
Read your Bible
Okay, I’m guilty of this one too. I know I need to be reading my Bible more. While we’re being starved of the sacraments, this is the perfect time to become more rooted in the Word of God. One thing I want to de-bunk right now, that I’ve seen infect the minds of Catholics in Ireland is the lie that, “The Bible is just for Protestants”. No, the Word of God is for everyone. Every Christian should be familiar with it. We do, as Christians, have a duty to learn of our faith through the Scriptures and the Catechism. However, I recommend it not just for educational purposes, but to become familiar with the voice of God and allow Him to speak to us. The verse that I always find pushing me to read Scripture more is, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14). We can only come to know His voice if we give Him the chance to speak to us in His Word. Scripture applies to everyone. It is one of the pillars of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, it’s one we often neglect. People seem to be daunted by the idea of opening the Bible, not knowing where to begin. Begin with the Gospels, they’re the easiest place to start because they’re easy to read and are the most relatable books. There is something there for you, the Word of God can be applied to everything. If you’re a regular reader of our blog posts, you’ll notice that they are immersed in the Word. You’ll almost always find a Bible quote in our posts, often more than one. And this blog has three different authors! We’ve each experienced the Word differently and applied it differently to our lives and ministry. So, I encourage you to rest with God in His Word. An easy place to start is Matthew 6: 25-34 where Jesus reflects on the Father’s care for us.
Turn your heart to Praise.
‘Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ for you’ (1 Thess. 5:16 – 18).
Following St. Paul’s instruction in that bible verse is easier said than done, to say the least. But that is the challenge of our faith. To be able to praise the Lord’s goodness in all circumstances. In the moments when we don’t understand or when things aren’t exactly looking good. Now is the perfect time to live out this verse. It is in this time that we can truly meditate on the fact that the Lord’s goodness is unchanging in every circumstance. I think an area of great weakness in our human nature is our tendency to so easily succumb to the lies that ‘when things are not good, it is God’s fault’ or that ‘He is no longer good’. Yet Jesus said, “I am with you always, to the close of age” (Matt. 28:20). It’s okay to have doubts, they are a normal part of growing in faith. It’s what we do with those doubts that matters. I’ve learned in times of trial that I have two options; I can either push God away or let Him meet me where I am. God will never push His love on us, we must choose Him. I’ve learned that when times are hard, pushing God out only hurts more because I am rejecting the one I was made for. God is always bigger than our problems and leaning on Him in times of trial can make our burdens so much easier to bear. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). It might not seem like the most obvious thing to do, but praising God in times of trial serves as a great reminder that God is over all things, including our current situation. Living with that perspective makes trying times easier. The reason I made this point after the point about reading our bibles is that it is far easier to praise God when we rest in His Word. Many of King David’s psalms were written in times of trial and they can provide great comfort in our struggles if we give them time. In times of struggle I recommend Psalms 27, 34, and 91.
While our current un-sacramental state of life is in many ways painful, God is still present. We might not have access to Him in the Eucharist but there are ways in which He can meet us where we are. I encourage you to meet God in places of intercession, in His Word, and in a place of praise.