At many times and in many ways in our lives we are all like the Apostle Thomas—having to have proof of something or having to prove something ourselves. It can be exhausting to doubt; but here is where mercy (all mercy, but especially divine) may enter in. According to Webster ‘mercy’ is: “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power; a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion; compassionate treatment of those in distress…”
True mercy always goes beyond justice and punishment to compassion. Mercy means cutting ourselves and others some slack—and maybe starts with us admitting our own human failings, fallibility and limitations. As Disciples we are called to model Divine Mercy and give those around us the opportunity to refresh and regroup, and to draw on the healing and restorative power of Christ. When we, or those who are near, falter and doubt—this is an opportune moment to model mercy to our own selves and to others. Today St. Paul reminds us that God and Jesus “gave us new birth to a living hope through the resurrection…” second chances: opportunities to redo, make anew, and make better—a merciful, divine “do-over!”
When our faith is tested “through various trials” (like a pandemic, or a tornado) it is very easy to doubt in God’s grace—but in mercy we may forgive our missteps and try again—as Jesus does with Thomas. He is gentle and correcting of Thomas’ doubt. God in His mercy knows that “Everything comes to pass, nothing comes to stay.” (Matthew Flickstein) This is the paradigm (model) of death and resurrection; the old passes away and the new appears.
Since we are living this immediate change of lockdown and safe distancing in order to fight the virus (and keep our families, friends, first responders and strangers safe), we have been warned countless times and in various ways that the world and our current normality post-pandemic will look different. So, what would you preserve from this experience for “after” if you could? What would you keep the same, or of what would you let go? The Disciples post-Jesus’ execution had no idea how things would be for them and their mission in the future. I imagine that before Jesus appeared (and in-between His visits) they were not just fearful in that upper room—they were grieving deeply a life they enjoyed with Jesus—one they had gotten used to living, and maybe had maybe taken for granted...
We are all grieving too, I believe—the loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. This is hitting us and we’re grieving collectively. We are not really used to this kind of collective grief in the air—not since maybe 9/11… And right now our grief is anticipatory: we do not know what the future holds, and we feel uncertain of what to expect. For myself, I have used the term that I feel somewhat “rudderless” in my days and ways. I imagine this is a bit like the way that the Upper Room Disciples must have felt.
What can help us is understanding the different stages of grief—this is a beginning—but the stages aren’t linear and may not happen in this order. It’s not a map, but it may provide some scaffolding/direction/understanding for how we may feel in this new Covid world. The five stages of grief are: denial—which we said a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. Anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. Bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks then everything will be better, right? Sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally: Acceptance--This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.
Acceptance is where we may find power over fear. We find some control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can wear a mask. I can learn how to work virtually. For me, acceptance is also deciding what I would preserve for “after.” How does that look? We have had more time with family and for spreading some loving concern for others; an appreciation of the beauty of outdoors and of a healing world from the lack of polluting industries; a focus on a richer interior life—in prayer, meditation, intellectual and artistic pursuits… There are many things that in our doubt and fear have mercifully—and with grace come to light—and has given us a vision of resurrection for our future post-pandemic.
I think the unspoken sixth stage of grief should be Meaning. Like the Disciples in the upper room, our mission here has changed—and we must find the meaningful in the unthinkable. Out of this time of grief and fear we are being given a second chance for change for the better: to reflect on this experience, to grieve for what has been lost (those who have died), to let go of doubt and in mercy turn toward one another with acceptance and love, to stock up on patience and compassion! Like the Disciples in the upper room, our mission is re-defined.
Today Jesus says to His Disciples (and to all of us): “Peace be with you,” before He sends them (and us), His people out to make a difference in the world. Now is the time for us to determine just what those differences will be for our future lives: So, I ask you, what will you preserve and of what should you let go?
Just a note: Here is an idea to consider for our future… (Thanks again, David!)