Lost in transition

Published April 18, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin



Fr. Rolando V. Dela Rosa, O.P.
Fr. Rolando V. Dela Rosa, O.P.

We welcomed the year 2020 with great expectations. But we are just into the fourth month, and already, we see this year as perhaps one of the most distracting, depressing, and fearful years of our life.

The endless news about the deaths and the misery caused by the pandemic, and the continuous lockdowns and quarantines imposed on us, make us weary and helpless. Irrational fear engulfs us as we conjure up depressing possibilities or worst-case scenarios.

When we start feeling like that, we are transitioning from misery to despair. We begin to take matters into our own hands because we think that no one, not even God, can help us. But St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote that we experience despair, not because we are hurting or miserable, but because “our stiff-necked pride makes us focus on the negative, rather than believe that God is in control.” In other words, despair makes us imperiously declare: “I know better than God.”

In today’s Gospel reading, it is despair that forced the fearful disciples to go into a voluntary lockdown (John 20:19-31). They hid behind closed doors, cowering in terror. After Jesus was executed, they felt they would be rounded up and executed by the Roman authorities. But even if they locked themselves in, Jesus appeared to them and said: “Peace be with you!”  They could not lock Jesus out of their lives.

The disciples’ despair was understandable. They thought the crucifixion was the end of Jesus’ story. But we who know how the whole story unfolded — that Jesus would rise from the dead, that God is with us, and that nothing is impossible for Him — must believe that even if we cannot see it clearly now, God is powerfully at work. As Jesus told the disciples, especially the doubtful Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believed” (John 20:29). During times of utter helplessness, God wants us to be humble, to surrender, and not to play god.

Humility does not exclude feeling angry, afraid, and depressed. But a humble person knows that such emotions come from a very short-sighted view of our life—one defined by the sordid circumstances surrounding where we are now.  Humility gives him new eyes to see things from a different perspective — where God wants to take us.

For instance, the forced lockdown has one collateral benefit: many families have begun to spend less on luxuries and focus on the necessities. Best of all, they are beginning to indulge more in happy experiences together.

I remember the story of a man and his wife who used to bring their five young children to air-conditioned malls every Sunday. They shopped, ate, watched movies, and played video games to their heart’s content, but with very little time to talk together.  With the current lockdown, they had to forego this practice. Though bored in the beginning, they have now learned to love staying at home, enjoying their new sense of togetherness. and conversing with one another.

The man recounts: “Forced to stay at home, I began to look at what’s inside there. I was shocked to see that our house is groaning under the weight of so many furniture, appliances, and trivial things, but we have very few happy memories that we can joyfully look back to. Thanks to this lockdown, we realized it is not yet too late to start building such memories.”

If we allow God to be God in our life,we will no longer feel trapped, locked down, and locked in.  For, by helping us focus our attention on what truly matters in life, the resurrected Jesus is setting us free from those things that enslave and imprison us.