March 27, 2020

Reflection / Natalie Hoefer

‘Can we talk now?’ Using this time of seclusion to grow closer to God

Natalie HoeferI know several people who gave up Facebook for Lent. I am not one of them.

In fact, I’m glad I didn’t make that sacrifice, because reading through the posts of late is like viewing a snapshot of society’s psyche in this ominous but historic time.

One that made me chuckle read: “Day three of quarantine. Lost hearing in right eye.”

But my favorite post in the last few weeks is a simple message “from God”:

“No movies. No concerts. No sporting events. No restaurants. No social gatherings. Limited workload. I’ve cleared your schedule—can we talk now? -God.”

This short message summarizes my own thoughts on this time of seclusion and standstill—and it’s shorter and catchier than anything I could write!

I recall the sense of urgency that underscored the Catholic Center on March 17 after it was announced that the building would close the next day. Perhaps it was the same for some of you: rushing to get work done, scrambling to grab everything needed to work from home for several weeks, saying hurried goodbyes to co-workers as if we were all on the sinking Titanic going off in search of a lifeboat—“So long. Take care. Hope to see you on the other side.”

When I got home that evening, I went to my work/prayer room, closed the door, took a deep breath and settled into the silence to process what had transpired.

Schools and offices closing for the time being. Gatherings restricted in size. The heartbreaking news of public Masses, adoration and most sacraments being canceled until further notice to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The announcements had come one after the other like waves colliding in a storm. (Later I saw another Facebook message “from God” that wisely advised, “Focus on me, not the storm.”)

It actually didn’t take too long for me to see God in the chaos. He shone like a lighthouse beam in the torrent with a clear message for all: “Come to me. Draw closer to me. Find lasting shelter in me.”

The more I reflected, the more I could see so much potential for a groundswell of lasting faith to emerge through this time of trial and standstill God has allowed.

Relegated to our homes, we have more time to grow in relationship with God, and so many means to do so. Settle into a cozy chair and have a true, heart-to-heart conversation with God. Pray the rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet or any other structured prayer. Read Scripture. Participate in the daily live-streamed or recorded Masses online—some parishes are even live-streaming adoration.

Now is a good time to learn the merits of sacrificial giving. Maybe it’s by cutting back on snacking while home all day, offering up the sacrifice for those who have the coronavirus, for the safety of health care workers or for an end to the pandemic. We can—and should—make the sacrifice of continuing to give to our parishes every week to help the Church assist others, even if the donation amount is smaller due to lost wages. Now that is sacrificial giving.

We can take time to really ponder the deepest truth of our faith and what it means personally in our own lives: that God loves us so much that he sent Christ into our world to show us how to live, and to suffer and die in our place so we could have eternal joy with him in heaven.

None of these thoughts are meant to downplay the realities of the pandemic. People are suffering and dying. Loved ones are in mourning. So many workers are putting themselves at risk to keep us healthy, safe and fed.

But we can pray for these people while we are sheltered in our homes. We can make offerings for them through sacrifices both government- and self-imposed. We can turn to God for help, for mercy.

And if we take advantage of our extra time, maybe we can move beyond turning to God only when in need. Maybe we can start the process of coming to know him.

We might be enticed enough to continue that process after the pandemic has passed. Then maybe we’ll come to have just the slightest speck of an inkling as to how much God loves us.

And maybe we’ll come to truly love him in return.

(Natalie Hoefer is a reporter for The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

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