O God, where hearts are fearful and constricted, grant courage and hope. Where anxiety is infectious and widening, grant peace and reassurance. Where impossibilities close every door and window, grant imagination and resistance. Where spirits are daunted and weakened, grant souring wings and strengthened dreams. Support us all the day long in our time of weakness and fear. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen
Walking With Jesus #56
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. Psalm 23:1-4
We are so much like sheep, or maybe I should say, I am like the sheep who needs to be with the flock. A sheep is a particularly vulnerable creature, especially when on its own. Sheep need a leader so as not to wander aimlessly, and will follow their leader even into danger. Sheep have no defense against predators except for flocking, yet their instinctive flight response to danger causes panic and scattering. A single sheep is highly stressed when separated from the flock. Sheep must be able to see each other in order to graze without agitation, and the loss of that visual contact can lead to panic. A lost sheep is, if you will, a sitting duck. Yes, I am a lot like a sheep.
As I read Psalm 23, and considered how I am responding to the instructions to protect myself from the dreaded corona virus by staying in my home, and not going out into public, I think that my sheep tendencies are coming out loud and clear. I thrive in being with the flock. Staying home alone can get to be the dark valley. I must depend upon Jesus to walk with me, to stay by my side, and remind me that I am a part of the flock even though we are not physically all together. This solitude is helping me understand and appreciate the communion of saints.
The phone calls to my friends and family, the text messages, the face book messages, face time calls, and the online contacts we have with each other help to get me through the days of being separated from the flock of friends, family and church community. I am grateful for all of these. They are a reminder that the flock is still around me, and Jesus, our leader, is still beside us in the long days of solitude.
These days are teaching me to be more compassionate with those who are always shut-in because of their health condition. It is helping me understand how important the church family is for keeping in touch and surrounding those who are always home bound.
May you fill your alone time with ways to contact those who you haven’t seen or heard from in a while, a time to keep in touch with your church family daily, a time to pray for your own vulnerability and the vulnerability of others in this crisis. May we all let this time be a time when our souls are restored, when fear is abated, and we are close to our shepherd who is there to lead us.
What home projects, or reading are you doing beside watching TV? Is this a time of refreshment or a time of boredom for you?
Are you spending more time in prayer?
How are you maintaining contact with friends and family during this time of home bound quarantine?
Almighty God, you bless us with the joy of family. We commend our families to your care. Help us remember to keep our homes safe and clean for our families. Help us to be Christ to each other during the days of frustration, fear and uncertainty. Grant that those who live alone may not be lonely in their solitude, but may find fulf8illment in loving you and their neighbors. May we all follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen
O Lord God, look with mercy on all who feel devastated and lonely in the isolation that is protecting them from the coronavirus. Provide them with the peace and love that your presence brings, and give them understanding caregivers if they are ill. Strengthen us all in faith and love in the face of this disease pandemic so that we can be supportive of each other through notes, cards, emails, phone calls and other distance communications. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord we pray. Amen
Walking With Jesus 55
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to
you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10
Water is essential to human life. There have been many examples of controversies over water in the news because of it’s importance to our lives. I think of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Flint, Michigan water crisis, or the critical need for sources of clean water all over the world.
It seems fitting that Jesus speaks of himself as living water that quenches our thirst eternally, because Jesus is the source of spiritual life that we all need. He is the gift of life that God has given for us. What does it means for Jesus to quench our thirst?
To reflect on this verse, is to ask us to examine our conscience. We can use the “examen of conscience” in the Pilgrim’s Guide as a prayerful reflection, or you may use the questions I have asked below as your guide to discern how you see Jesus as the living water that refreshs your soul.
The first examen of conscience was initiated as a form of spiritual direction by Ignatius of Loyola. It is a way to reflect on the events of our lives. If you have a copy of the Pilgrim’s Guide, take it out and then take a few minutes for quietly opening to God, silently centering on God’s presence in your life, a time of gratitude and thanksgiving, and a few moments of reflecting on your feelings about your life. Then, pause to consider a few questions about your spiritual life. This is a time to consider the level of thirst you have for Jesus, our living water. You may use the following questions to help you discern the level of your thirst and inspire you to discover ways to find refreshment from God’s abundant living water.
- What are the thirsts that Jesus quenches in you?
- How important is this living water to your very existence, in the same way that ordinary water is for you physically?
- What’s the state of your spiritual refreshment today? Are you thirsty or satisfied? Or somewhere in between?
- What are you thirsty for? What things quench your thirsts?
- Where have you identified living water as a necessity for you in the past?
- Toward what wellspring is God drawing you to today?
- What tools (or practices) do you need to use daily to draw living water ffor your soul?
Response to the Coronavirus Outbreak
Following the reports from the CDC, I, as your National Via de Cristo Spiritual Director, strongly urge each secretariat to consider canceling gatherings to comply with published recommendations. Options are:
- Suspend all in-person worship, meetings, and activities at least through the end of March.
- Experiment with online and phone worship opportunities.
- Use online applications such as Go-To-Meeting, Zoom, Video Conferencing, and other online tools.
- Communicate regularly with your community through a phone tree, weekly email and/or video.
- Pray every day. Stop what you are doing at noon each day and take some time for prayer. I will be posting prayers for each day via email, Facebook and the NLS website.
- Be especially kind to yourself as you consider your daily hygiene habits.
- Keep your wits about you and remember that this pandemic is not the only time in the world that something like this has happened. It happened in Luther’s day with the Black Plague which killed Europeans by the millions. Luther himself suffered from the Black Plague. He wrote the following to his students at Wittenburg. “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.”
May we all respond to this disease crisis with grace and compassion. Thank you for your wise and thoughtful leadership.