Sunday, February 21, 2021
“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
‘This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”
We have started our 40 days in the desert. For many of us, it may seem like we never left the desert we entered in Lent 2020. Of course, things have evolved, life has changed, and we’ve tried to adjust. In the popular common parlance, we pivoted. I have mentioned it before, but looking back on the start of the pandemic, I am still amazed at how nimble we were, how creatively we responded, and how generous and faith filled we have been. And we have pivoted again, and again, and again. It started with staff at St. Patrick and St. Boniface, not only dealing with their own personal response to Covid-19, but reimagining how to be church when we couldn’t use our physical facilities in the same way. In addition, the faculty and leadership of our schools, both at St. Patrick and at Nativity, were thrown in the deep end and managed to not only keep from sinking, but provide for the academic, emotional, and spiritual needs of our students and families. There was no manual or play book on how to do this, but they responded with generosity, creativity, and self sacrifice. It was an act of love for our students. They are heroes. It wouldn’t mean a thing, however, without the commitment and effort of our members and families. I am humbled by your kindness, patience, hope, and desire. I have experienced the reality of God with us through you. We have experienced loss of freedom, of connection, of security, and of loved ones. It is true that the pandemic has taken a significant toll and continues to do so. We have all grieved in some way. Yet, there is power in the human spirit and in the Holy Spirit in us. You never threw in the towel. It is a testament to our Creator that we have persevered in the midst of trials. It’s gone on longer than I would have imagined, but I am grateful to God for you. This has been a long journey through the desert together.
Although there are growing signs of hope, we’re still in the desert. As we have entered Lent 2021, what now? It’s too easy to forget that we haven’t made it through. I see it in my lack of patience and understanding, in the growing sense of entitlement and judgement, and the quick fuse to anger or being dismissive. I use these tactics to try and control what is still beyond my control. I have a thin skin and grow tired of the constant uncertainty, change, challenges, and persistence of this pandemic. It is, on the other hand, the perfect time for God to act. My isolation from having covid, the delay to my surgery, and recovery have all contributed to a deep sense of gratitude for the blessings in my life. I couldn’t help but slow down, take stock, and reflect. We have entered this Lent in a different way, as different people, in a different world, and with different goals. We are entering a desert from a desert. God is not far from us in this time. What is God trying to show you? What is truly important? What do you want to hold on to? What should change? Even in the midst of this desert, we are called to prepare. As a child, like so many others, in anticipation of the end of a long car ride or an upcoming event, I would whine, “How much longer?” My dad’s response was always, “It’s not as long as it has been.” However much longer we wander in the desert, it’s not as long as it has been. The kingdom of God is at hand.