Like a single grain of wheat tossed upon parched ground, we feel huge discomfit: estrangement from familiar routines, isolation in lockdown homes and solitary walks, the constriction of unaccustomed silence, and starvation for vital nutrients. Gone are the predictable sources of affirmation, save for our pets. Such pain and suffering are getting old: the funny jokes, no longer funny, topics of conversation lapsing into fickle weather patterns. Each morning’s tally of the victims seems to preclude considering our own.

Yet, Kovid-19 intensifies its killing swath like trigger-happy ghouls firing into the empty night. An epidemiologist likened this virus to an unpredictable Mexican jumping bean—no telling where its contagion will next appear.

How face this crisis that seems to have longer legs than first anticipated? How remain intact before its dismembering, despite slow-burning fears roasting our innards?

Back to the single grain of wheat for a response: it must die to its shortsighted will, it must allow the combing of the new deceased, it must scour the heart of stuff, it must acknowledge its creatureliness. With acceptance, comes fresh growth—this is God’s work.

Such life lessons continue informing my hospice experience, soon to enter its sixth month of praying, listening, and waiting. There’s still much to learn.

Jesus also spoke of the single grain of wheat in the Gospel of John. We’re in good company.

Numbers mount; hurried burials mount; communities of grievers mount; undigested information mounts, whipped about in centrifuges with no-turn-off switches.

Like Covid-19’s free-for-all with death, darkness knows no surcease: its opaqueness nails shut crannies of light, known to have helped from previous sources. Alone, stripped of the familiar, making do with what we’ve got, we sink to our knees and wait.

Within this lull, however, comes a blessing, Urbi et Orbi, from a solitary figure, sickly, dressed in white. It is March 27th, night. Floodlights shadow the empty rain-swept Square of St. Peter’s, splayed out before him like an ancient amphitheater.

The photo of this blessing, live streamed by the Vatican, suggests exhaustion, depletion of vital energy, something akin to Ingmar Bergman’s surreal fantasy, The Seventh Seal set in medieval Sweden. Then and now, Catholicism’s fiery heart seems almost extinguished by God’s silence and the black plague devastating Europe.

More than ever, recourse to God through practicing the 12 Steps opens minds and hearts to ultimate truth and love, uncovered in our depths. Inherent within this discipline are Gospel principles that correct, affirm, and direct wayward spirits and help us accept our graced flawedness to enter the Kingdom of God. However, I still weep …

As Peter said to Jesus in John’s Gospel, “Lord to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”

 

 

“By all means, we’ve got to stay happy! Whatever we can do to keep it going …” she gushed as another chimed in with a joke about hand washing. This morning’s talk show hosts chuckled as they described neighborhoods putting up Christmas lights and chalking driveways and sidewalks with pastel hearts and flowers.

In my perception, such attitudes miss the mark. Many experts also tout keeping busy with on-line work from home, home schooling, home-improvement projects, and keeping track of the pandemic’s swath of global mayhem. In between times, social media assuages social loneliness and fills empty time. Netflix and television dull the urgency of the questions: When will we return to normal, however construed? Will things be different? Will I lose out? How will I manage?

Such busyness frays the fabric of the global community, already dangerously thin with violence and addictive behaviors.

Glaringly absent from this scenario are silence and prayer, and the fact of death, ours included—just relegated to numbers of the stricken on graft charts in states, distant from our own. Such shudders get lodged within stress.

So how quell this inner turmoil and enter the silence of prayer? How let it speak to the grievous circumstances in which we find ourselves? It’s only important to want it, deeply, and to begin. Within our depths, a dear Friend wants our hearts, however scarred.

Psalm 56:11, 13 speaks to such a relationship: …in God I put my trust, fearing nothing…for you have rescued me from Death to walk in the presence of God in the light of the living.

 

 

 

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