As we just finished the Lenten Season, I hope that everyone used those 40 days to repent, seek forgiveness, and to pray that the cross that one may be carrying be lightened or put away. This weekend we witnessed the agony of Jesus, His suffering and death, His resurrection, and His shedding of the cross that he carried. These days, many of us aren’t so fortunate and are still carrying a cross; some light, some heavy, some so heavy that we find ourselves asking, “Are you there, God? It’s me?” I for one have been carrying that heavy cross for the last 40 days and I have been asking, “Are you there, God? It’s me?” And it’s getting heavier rather than lighter, but I have been praying more every day, saying the Rosary, praying novenas. I started going to mass more, even on my lunch hour before the Churches were closed. I have started to read a lot about my religion, the why’s of what we believe, the reasons for the so-called “rules” of the Church that so many lapsed Catholics and non-Catholics use to criticize the Church or make excuses on why not to go to Church, and most importantly how demons are on Earth fighting to tear families apart, wreck souls, and destroy God’s will. St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
I was feeling closer to God than I have since I was in high school and was thinking about becoming a priest. Yet I still find myself asking: Are you there, God? It’s me? Why have you not answered my prayers yet?
I know I’m not alone. It is ironic that during the holiest of time of the Church the Church is closed. No holy hours, no sanctuary of the peace and quiet of talking to God in His Church, no receiving of the Holy Eucharist. Everything is shut down, places are dark, and many people are feeling alone, with many of us asking right now… Are you there, God? It’s me?
My Lenten journey has been a whirlwind of getting closer to God, starting to find the peace that was missing for so many years lately, then the day before the stay-at-home orders my family was ripped from me when my wife suddenly moved out. I stood alone in the driveway crying when I got home from the store and everything was gone: my wife, my kids, her stuff. The cross put me to my knees. Where is my Simon to help me carry the cross, I wondered, but no one was around? Are you there God? It’s me?
Then I remembered a priest recently told me and my wife the only person who wins in a divorce is Satan and that his ultimate goal is to destroy the Sacrament of Marriage. I have struggled to pray again, evil started to creep back in, and I find myself asking God, “Why have you abandoned me?” My cross I am carrying is so heavy, sometimes I feel like I am alone on that cross now, and Father was right: my kids have been harmed for the rest of their lives through this. Like Father Christensen, who is suffering from ALS that we learned about last month from Brother LaMorte: maybe God is teaching me about humility, patience, and pride in order for me to repent from my ways and change, and that by getting closer to God, the Cross that is so unbearable that I can’t breathe right now will be lightened when I place all my trust in God.
I ask you to think back over the weekend: can you imagine the agony of Jesus that we just witnessed this past weekend and what he did for us and our sins? We all have crosses, as nobody gets through life without it. Lent teaches us to look inward, examine our behavior, repent, and change. This pandemic should give you the time to truly think: What is your cross?
My cross is the divorce that is ripping my family apart, the thoughts of my kids being harmed for the rest of their lives, souls committing mortal sins, and letting Satan win. It is important to remember that Jesus always knew what His cross was: the redemption of all the sins of mankind. That singular thought, that singular mission, is what allowed Him to do what He did, endure what he did for so long on the cross. The important thing for us Catholics is to remember that even when times get tough, God is always with us. Usually a person does not know that cross is coming; maybe that is because they were far from God. What keeps that person going has to be one thing: a full and complete trust in God. Only God will enable to you get back up when you fall down from the weight of the cross. Only by trusting in God will you fully be able to lift up the cross and put one foot in front of the other. If you are feeling abandoned and trying to read self-help books, books about self-empowerment, etc., then you may feel good short term, but you are focusing on the present and not the life of God, the word of God, and the life everlasting with God.
I want to leave you with these final thoughts about the current pandemic that is causing so many crosses to become heavier for people.
CS Lewis wrote in 1942:
Satan says: “I will cause anxiety, fear and panic. I will shut down business, schools, places of worship and sports events. I will cause economic turmoil.”
Jesus says: “I will bring together neighbors, restore the family unit. I will bring dinner back to the kitchen table. I will help people slow down their lives and appreciate what really matters. I will teach my children to rely on me and not the world. I will teach my children to trust me and not their money and material resources.”
During this pandemic, now is not the time to be idle and sit back as Knights. That is the wish of Satan to cause trouble. Yesterday the good news was proclaimed…Jesus is risen! He overcame the agony of his cross and death. Now is the time for us to rise up, too. While churches are closed because of Satan, we need to show the world through our actions, through our social media network, and so on that we are an example of Christ. Make sure we are helping others and especially during this time reach out to everyone you know just to make sure they are okay. Isolation for some may be too much, and our job as Knights is to make sure we show them how to talk to God to lighten the cross that they may be carrying and find peace with God. Otherwise Satan will continue to cause turmoil until it is too much for them.
Use this time to focus on the family, restore broken relationships, and enjoy every minute with them. Because God wants a solid family unit, Satan wants a broken family. Everything can be restored through God because that is God’s will. Show everyone God is with them, repent for your sins, and talk more to God to truly learn His ways. He has a plan for you; sometimes you just need to listen and talk with Him. While we can’t go to God’s house, we can certainly invite Him into ours. Don’t wait to have to ask: “Are you there, God? It’s me?” Pray daily! For Jesus is risen! So let him rise up in your house and heart.