CHARLES DICKENS in his novel A TALE OF TWO CITIES describes the social situation in his day in the following terms-
“It was the best of times, it the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity ,it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”.
We might describe our present situation in similar terms.. We could say we have gone from what we thought were the best of times to what seems to be the worst of times in a matter of weeks. We are invaded by an invisible enemy which has taken away our freedom, our livelihoods, our confidence, our health and in some case sadly life itself…and continues to do so.
Some are in disbelief that this is happening – that our cosy comfortable, seemingly permanent life-style could be taken from us in a flash; some display a serious level of foolishness by not following the health safeguards; others despair of ever recovering financially; some see no silver lining in the darkness.
But while describing the worst of times Dickens also acknowledges the presence of wisdom, belief, confidence and hope.
We must acknowledge the same now.
We benefit from the wisdom of those steering us through this crisis.
We have confidence in the professionalism and dedication of all involved in the health and caring services.
Our hopes are raised by the goodness of people in making themselves and their abilities available on a voluntary basis.
Our solid belief in the importance and dignity of every individual will trump any tendency towards self-centred selfishness.
If there were signs in recent years that we were slipping into that type of MÉ FEIN mentality, hopefully this experience will re-awaken
our traditional Christian neighbourliness and give rise to even better times in the future. We are our neighbours’ keepers
That belief is based on each of us being a unique creation of God and that He is present in our lives at all times – both in the best and in the worst of time.
It may be a challenge for many to see His presence in tragic situations like the present one.
In the Gospel today- the 5th Sunday of Lent- Jesus’ close family friend Martha had the same problem . So deep was their friendship that she didn’t put a tooth in it when she chided Him by saying- “IF YOU HAD BEEN HERE MY BROTHER WOULD NOT HAVE DIED.’
His reply to her is His reply to us today—repeated in different forms throughout the Gospel ( note –always in the PRESENT tense):
I AM HERE/ I AM THE LIGHT/ I AM THE WAY/ I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE/ I AM THE SHEPHERD/ I AM THE RESURRECTION/ I AM THE LIFE.
Long distance athletes speak of HITTING THE WALL in races. It is the moment in an event when they feel that can’t go on; they have nothing else to give. But somehow they find the reserves of energy to continue.
We need to know that as we make this strange journey together and dig deeper into our faith, that somewhere in the uncertainty and sense of unknowing, we can find the grace to continue.
FAITH is a powerful concept ; it can propel us into doing amazing things for other people.
FAITH is knowing whom to ask for help. For Martha and Mary Jesus made the impossible possible. He is here for us now too.
We do all we can for others as if everything depended on us and we place our trust in God as if everything depended on Him.
The author of FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND walked the strand with the Lord, noting that in good time- the best of times- there were two sets of footprints visible- side by side-her’s and the Lord’s.
But at the lowest and sadest times in her life -the worst of time- there was only one set of prints. She asked why He deserted her in those desperate times when she needed Him most.
His answer to her is His answer to us to day as we face this virus together
“WHEN YOU SAW ONLY ONE SET OF FOOTPRINTS,
IT WAS THEN THAT I CARRIED YOU”.