The pain, loss, fears, confusion and darkness of the last year have shaken us out of our comfortable means of self-mastery. It has given us a chance to once again realize our absolute dependence on God.
Pope Francis has paraphrased Peter’s words to the crowd in today’s reading from Acts: “Repent! Repent! Change your life! You who received God’s promise and you who distance yourselves from God’s law, because of many of your own things, your idols and many things…convert yourselves. Return to faithfulness (Acts 2:38).”
In reflecting on today’s readings, the pope says, “There are always illusions that attract our attention, and often we follow after these illusions.” He goes on, “Many times, when we feel secure (in these illusions), we begin to make plans and we slowly drift away from the Lord. We do not remain faithful. My security is no longer that which the Lord gives me. It is an idol…self-assurance opens the door to idols.”
Mary Magdalene, in the reading from the Gospel of John, is a model of a faithful woman, totally dependent on the Lord. She had not forgotten what the Lord had done for her, she did not abandon the Lord or rest in the illusion of her own self-security. In her faithfulness the Lord rewarded her with his appearance and with the role of being the first to announce the resurrection to the disciples.
As our illusions collapse during the pandemic, as our world seems upside down with illness, death, violence, political discord, poverty, environmental destruction, will we see this moment as the awakening to our absolute dependence on a loving God and the abandonment of our self-assuring idols?
Or will we use this frightening time to re-construct the old idols…in the guise of seeking to elevate our own status, increase our power over others, seek more possessions and money…that gave us the illusion of self-sufficiency and self-assurance and led us away from absolute dependency on the Lord?
Pope Francis concludes, “Today let us ask the Lord for the grace of faithfulness: to thank Him when He gives us security, but never to think that these are ‘my’ securities and always to look beyond our securities; the grace to be faithful even before the tomb and the collapse of so many illusions.”
Today may we set aside quiet time to reflect on the illusions in our own lives that give us a sense of security. Does self-assurance draw me away from the Lord? As the pope says, faithfulness in the Lord is a grace. Ask for it today.
Jim Wayne is a board member of the Passionist Solidarity Network (PSN), and author of The Unfinished Man. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.