I need to be honest. And, I have a feeling what I am about to say is going to ring true for many of you.
This “stay-at-home” time of March and April 2020 has been both really hard on my faith life and really fruitful for my faith life. I have joined with Father Sojan, Pope Francis, and other holy priests for virtual prayer and Mass, sometimes daily. I have gathered on Zoom with other moms from Church for prayer and fellowship. I have taken to praying the rosary and divine mercy chaplet more frequently. And yet, Christ feels so far from me right now.
I have never longed for Christ – made present in Church community and most especially the Eucharist – so deeply. I will be the first to admit that I took the accessibility of the Sacraments, and even just the ability to stop by the Church to pray in front of the tabernacle, for granted. And now, when I want to be WITH Christ more than ever, I can’t receive him. Often I feel like my prayer (and the prayer of the whole world) is in vain. People are still sick, more and more families are finding themselves barely able to make ends meet, and the stress of this time just continues to grow for our healthcare workers, public servants, and the overall economy. I keep asking myself, “Where is the Good Shepherd in all of this?”
I wrestled with this A LOT over Holy Week. I knew He was on the cross. That’s where we are supposed to find Him when our suffering (and the world’s suffering) seems too much. I knew He was calling us to unite our suffering to His and that the Resurrection was coming.
But then Easter came, and that morning, I just felt sad. I knew we would be getting dressed up to attend Mass in our living room as a family, but it just wasn’t going to be the same. I didn’t feel hopeful. We were still in quarantine and the world was still suffering.
As we had breakfast that morning, my husband and I reminded our children of the reason for that day. We talked about how Jesus died on the cross and then rose from the dead so that we could live with Him forever in heaven.
Our daughter, who is 5, sat there pensively and then started to get a bit teary-eyed. I asked her what was wrong and she said, so beautifully, “I just feel Jesus so strongly in my heart right now. It means so much to me that he would do that.”
I sat there stunned. As tears also welled into my eyes, I simply responded, “Ya, He is a pretty amazing Good Shepherd isn’t He, that He would lay down His life for His sheep.”
I knew she was familiar with the Parable of the Good Shepherd, as she is part of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program here at St. Francis.* Before all this quarantine, they were learning about this great Parable during atrium, so I knew she had been asked the important questions, “Why did Jesus say he was the Good Shepherd?” and “He lays down his life for the sheep. Why does he do that?”
But in that moment, my response to her was really more a response to my own faith-wrestling. Her words brought me hope when I felt hopeless. She reminded me that there is no Resurrection without the cross.
The Good Shepherd was AND is among us. Right now, maybe more than ever in my lifetime, He is in our suffering, stressed, sad hearts, just like she said. He has never left us. And He promises us great HOPE in the Resurrection. It’s coming, even if we don’t feel it yet.
*In the March 2020 issue of The Grapevine, our parish newsletter, Laura Nelson so eloquently described the importance of the Parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-16) to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program. You can read her article at sfatx.org/the-good-shepherd/
This blog was written by Danielle Milliken, Coordinator of Digital Media & Communications here at St. Francis of Assisi. If you’re interested in writing a blog for St. Francis of Assisi, please contact Joseph at [email protected].