At this time, we are eagerly anticipating the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions in coming weeks when we can move about more freely and our children can return to school gradually. Our churches will be open this coming week for private prayer and devotion and then hopefully Masses will resume in a couple of weeks time. But how will it feel?
Some years ago, my spiritual director and I were talking about holidays and he commented, ‘Don’t expect too much of holidays!’ He was responding to a comment I’d made about not feeling as refreshed as I should after time away. Sometimes it’s like that… we feel a bit let down by good experiences when they are not as satisfying as we had expected.
As we look forward to the lifting of restrictions, we may find ourselves expecting too much. Together we have been through something very significant – traumatic for some - and this weekend marks 107 days since this lockdown began. When we add in the fact that we have faced an unstable situation since March last year, emotional reactions are no surprise. It will take time to return to some ‘normalcy’ in our lives and to support our children as they return to the routine of schooling, even though so close to the end of the year.
Anxiety and stress are normal as we readjust. Recent studies in Australia reveal that more than half those surveyed have struggled with their mental health at some stage amidst the uncertainty. Younger adults seem to have suffered more and parents in particular had serious concerns about their children where isolation from friends, home learning and uncertainty had taken a toll.
Somewhere in all this there is a ‘word from God for me’! Perhaps we know it already – a word or phrase, a verse from the Scriptures, our familiar name for Jesus, perhaps a sacred image - that provides an anchor for us. This Sunday’s Gospel story of Jesus’ meeting with the rich young man may strike a chord as he asks Jesus, ‘Good master, what must I do…?’ – perhaps our question at many stages this past year.
The ‘word from God’ in this Gospel that strikes me is this: ‘Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him…’ This is what Jesus does… he looks steadily at each of us and loves us completely! Parents know this so well as they gaze at their child, full of wonder at what God and they together have created. People in love and friendship know this too. In prayer we call this contemplation - allowing ourselves to become absorbed in God as he is absorbed in us. Isn’t this what personal prayer is about - Jesus and ourselves looking steadily at one another, coming to know each other better, enjoying each other?
Many will need some healing during the times ahead and much of that will occur in family life. Even in these difficult times we may have learned new ways of relating to one another. As our lives start to fill up again, we need to hold on to these experiences and be attentive to those around us and to these family things. That ‘word from God’ is very often found in a special way in family life too!