Monday, November 30, 2020

God is My Savior: Reflections at the Beginning of the Liturgical New Year

When I was growing up in the 1980s, there was a popular T-shirt that read, “Life’s a ***** and then you die.” It is something we thought was funny as teenagers. But looking at it from the perspective of today, I can see it was a cry of despair that life is suffering and meaningless.

Flashing forward to today, the temptation to think that way is real. Regardless of one’s outlook on life and wherever one lives, 2020 can easily be considered—expressed most charitably—sub-par. Depending on your outlook, 2021 can only get better… or can only get worse.

Of course, for Catholics, the New Year has already begun with the First Sunday of Advent. The message of Advent is important because it tells us that, no matter what hope or despair we feel about the Presidential Election or with COVID-19, that we need a savior and that our Savior will not forsake us.

That does not mean life will be all “sweetness and light” of course. Life does have hardship and injustice that is out of control. It also has hardship that comes in response to our own actions. Those who suffer the worst of it quite naturally feel embittered if told to “hang in there” because things are “looking up” (cf. James 2:16-17).

Rather, the Advent declaration of The Savior serves as hope to those in the worst of circumstances that no matter how bad life gets, there is respite offered to us. Not a superficial ephemeral respite of this world. But that things will be made right in the substantial and eternal sense. 

But, at the same time, it tells those whose faith is in themselves, in politics, in science, that we need saving in a way that these things cannot solve. At 12:01pm, January 20, 2021 we will have the same problems we have today. A change of political administration cannot change that. We will still be subject to the ravages of disease. A coronavirus vaccine cannot change that. In other words, we are mortal finite beings who are unable to solve certain things.

If we do not have a Savior, all we have been through in 2020 is meaningless, a farce. The changes we might get in the future does no good for those who died this past year, for those who suffered this past year.

But, if we do recognize our need for a Savior and seek to live according to His ways, we will be able to make sense out of what we have been through and will go through. There is a point to life, there is a relief from our sorrows that is much more than nothingness. God is in control.

He is in control, but He is not a “fairy godmother” or a “genie” who grants wishes when we pray. Sometimes, we do have to say, like Jesus did, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). We may have to be told like St. Paul was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Job could not see the sense of his suffering. He railed against the perceived injustice of God in letting these things happen to him when he did not do anything that merited such punishment. God’s response to Job was not to excuse Himself. It was to point out that Job could not grasp what God knew and designed and Job had no basis for telling God that what He permitted was unjust.

We do need to keep this in mind. I do not know what might happen to me today, tomorrow. I could drop dead. I could be stricken by a disease. I could lose my family or friends. But come what may, I trust that God is my Savior and that what happens to me here on Earth does not mean that God has abandoned me.

So yes, 2020 is a dumpster fire… and I am sure others can say it more vehemently than I can, having suffered more. But, regardless of whether 2021 is better or worse in the temporal, physical sense, we have a Savior who offers us what we cannot possibly do for ourselves. We would be wise to trust and follow Him regardless of how the road looks here on Earth.

No comments:

Post a Comment