“It was not you who chose me, says the Lord, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15:16)
A non-practicing Jewish woman, the primary caregiver for her elderly mother and disabled sister asked, “where is God in this pandemic?” This wasn’t the first time she had asked about God, nor was it the first time she had talked about her difficult life of struggles and doubts. “I read about Job like you suggested and I saw myself in him, but with everything going on in the world, I have to know where God is.”
Recalling the advice of my spiritual director, I reminded her of our common roots in the Old Testament and suggested that she read Isaiah 50. I explained that this chapter shows how God helps those (the remnant) who put their faith and trust in Him and not in themselves no matter how difficult are the circumstances of life. I spoke of the Suffering Servant referred to in Isaiah as Jesus, the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and urged her to read Isaiah 53, one of the key Old Testament Scriptures pointing to the redemptive work of Christ. To further solidify this opportunity of evangelization, I sent her a YouTube video of a Jewish woman who came to believe in Our Lord as her saviour by reading Isaiah 53.
With sincere, enthusiastic gratitude, the woman said that these chapters have helped as she continues to struggle with her beliefs. Some parts “really struck a chord” as she looked back on moments in her life and saw how in time “it all made sense.”
This dark period of history in which we are living can be challenging even for those of us who profess belief in the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. But this is where He has placed us. In these difficult days, He has work for us who profess discipleship borne of the Love of God and neighbour, rooted in humble obedience to the Lord.
Before we can begin this work, we need to pray. St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a wife, mother of four and physician, wrote that “the stillness of prayer is the most essential condition for fruitful action. Before all else, the disciple kneels down.” A life or prayer – adoration, contrition, petition, thanksgiving – begins and sustains our life of discipleship, especially these days as we live with added worries and experience less human interaction. Trust in the name of the Lord and rely on God, urges the writer of Isaiah 50 because the Lord helps us and supplies for us as we look outside of ourselves and reach out to those around us.
In a world where the fear of contagion keeps us distant from one another and adds stress to our lives, where the proliferating face masks – their efficacy still debated, their use controversial – deprive us of the need to relate to each other’s facial expressions and appearance, and where no one has yet figured out a way to open our churches in a safe way – whatever that might mean – it’s not easy to convey God’s love to each other. But reach out we must, in creative, compassionate ways because this is what the Lord expects of his disciples at this time in history. This is our call to discipleship; our call to holiness. If we rely on ourselves, we will fail. If we set our faces like flint (Isaiah 50:7) and rely on the Lord, He will give each of us “the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens me morning by morning, He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple.” (Isaiah 50:4)
These are dark times in which Our Lord calls us to witness with our lives hidden in Christ. But as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross wrote in her essay, The Hidden Light and Epiphany, “the more an era is engulfed in the night of sin and estrangement from God the more it needs souls united to God. And God does not permit a deficiency. The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night.”