For the past ten days, I have been living in the peculiar, hazy world the virus has created for me. This is not a complaint: I know, even as I struggle to walk upstairs, that I have nothing to complain about. Getting up the stairs means I can breathe, and breathing is good. Breathing is something I have always taken for granted before. Now I am grateful for it. Grateful I can climb the stairs; grateful I don’t need oxygen; grateful I have a family around me; and grateful, of course, for the vaccine (second shot late spring), which seems to be protecting me from the worst the virus can do.
In this peculiar and hazy world, I cannot do all the things I usually do. In fact, I can do very few of them. Even writing this is tiring. I never dreamt that lifting my hands to type (on my iPad, sitting in my bed) would be tiring. But it is. Reading is a challenge. The Monday crossword took twice as long as I expected. I move slowly, when I move at all, and it takes some doing just to get going.
I suspect that I am treading the territory of a country that has temporary residents (as I hope to be this time) and permanent residents (which I may be one day, God willing, if I live long enough to wear myself out). I hope that I will be changed for the better by my visit. I know slowing down is good for me, though this isn’t the way I would have chosen to do it.
And that’s it. That’s all I can write today. In your charity, dear reader, would you pray for me, that I am changed for the better? Let me know if I can pray for you. After all, I’m not doing much else these days. ❤️
Cease striving, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Psalm 46 : 10-11
. . .
I admit that these two verses are not among those set for the reading of this psalm today at Mass. But they strike me as particularly apt for this point in Lent. “Cease striving,” the psalmist says (many translations have “be still”). Yet I don’t think about Lent as a time of rest. What place does rest have in a penitential season? Here I am, giving up and taking on (and not doing a stellar job of either, truth be told). Is the psalmist telling me to stop it?
Somehow I don’t think so. I think, rather, that the psalmist is reminding me (in these two verses and those to be read in Mass today) that all the abstinence and action that make up my Lenten observance aim for this end precisely: rest in God. To give up something I enjoy has a double effect: a certain suffering that comes from a want left unsatisfied, and the possibility for refreshment from another source, from God. And what have I taken on, but more time for reflection, more frequent attendance at daily Mass? This is a recipe for resting in God for me.
Because that is, after all, what God desires of us. Cease striving, says the Lord: I am God, I will be God, and I will be exalted. You can sit back and enjoy my strength; you can rely on my saving help. We see our need for that strength and saving help better, perhaps, when our Lenten discipline makes us want. How much more ready, then, will we be to enjoy the good things that God gives us–and to recognise their source–come Easter?