The same yesterday, today, and forever

The pandemic is getting old.  Usually, we refer to these days as the “dog days of August,” when the accumulated heat of summer days and the lethargy they induce are to be put up with for a few more weeks.  For baseball fans, it normally means the slog through the late summer schedule before the home stretch in September.


But everything is out of whack.  For some of us, every day has seemed pretty much like every other day since March.  Dog days all.  No relief whatsoever from the hometown team, who are playing like dogs, with the worst pitching staff since the grand ol’ game was invented.  But at least this particular season is mercifully short and its end can be marked on the calendar, which is exactly what can’t be said about the pandemic.

And that’s what really gets us down.  How long, O Lord? It is especially at times like this that it’s best to think about those who suffer the most.  I’m thinking of a brother in a nursing home who has been unable to receive visitors since March and who has been struggling, physically and emotionally, to recover from a fall.  The list of those who suffer is long, including so many who have lost jobs and know not how they will support themselves and/or their families.  The worry and the pain are incalculable, made worse by not being able to mark the end on the calendar.

Beyond saying that God allows for suffering for reasons not available to our limited intelligence, how does a Christian live through these days?  As always, with faith, hope and charity, united to Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever.  Faith, hope and charity are theological virtues, which means they are given by God and are not connected to any calculation of “how things are going” at any given point in time. As they awaited execution at the hands of the Communists in 1952, our three Bulgarian Assumptionist brothers – Kamen, Pavel, and Josaphat – wrote a letter to their local superior, asking the community to pray for them.  “Ask God to help us be faithful in small matters here in prison,” they wrote, “so that we may be found faithful in the crucible that lies ahead.”  Yes, the time of their execution would be a privileged moment for testing their faith, but so too every opportunity left to them to open themselves to God’s grace was likewise privileged.

bulgarian martyrs.jpg

As always, with faith, hope and charity, even in this “prison” of ours. One of the tropes of my preaching over the years has been this: we are never lacking in opportunities to bear witness to our faith.  At a time when our straightened circumstances easily lead to discouragement and to turning back on ourselves, it is a favorable time to witness to hope and charity as well.  Our life is not our own.  We belong to Christ.  The Risen Lord’s first words to the fearful disciples in the upper room after his resurrection, “Peace be with you, be not afraid” carry a special weight in pandemic time.   Founded upon this hope, the exhortation to bear one another’s burdens in charity can give shape and meaning to these dog days of August, and beyond.