After nearly two and a half years of COVID-19, a war in Ukraine, floods throughout NSW, endless rain in Sydney, a failed religious discrimination bill, the approach of a vote on euthanasia on Macquarie Street and now a federal election campaign, anyone could be forgiven for being depleted this Easter.
We read in mainstream publications that people are “so tired”, that they are running on empty in their professional and personal lives. There has been a “great resignation” caused by restlessness, dreams thwarted by the pandemic, and the reappraisal of priorities during months spent in lockdown.
We are depleted, we are fed up, resentful and in need of a break. Many of us have kids home sick with COVID, adult children who will graduate from university having hardly met their classmates, relatives we haven’t seen for years, friends who have dropped off the face of the earth.
Plenty have lost jobs and savings, many more have lost everything, and have instead received in their place anxiety, depression, poverty and isolation. For refugees, the frail, those living with disabilities and the spouses and children of broken marriages, the last few years have been particularly hard.
In these circumstances the words of the Prophet and Psalmist David come to mind: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 121:1-2)
David asks again in Psalm 24:8: “Who is this King of glory?” We get a mirror of this from the Lord himself in his question to St Peter: “Who do you say I am?” (Mt 16:16)
After a few years of being run down and burned out by the circumstances of life, our generation doesn’t answer Jesus’ question in the same way as we did. The Church that returns its confession of faith – “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” – is made up of frustrated and depleted people.
From whence does my help come? Who is this Lord of Glory? Perhaps these questions feel harder to answer after a few punishing years. “You are the Christ.” It is easy to confess this when we are comfortable and the troubles of life feel manageable.
The French priest Fr Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675-1751) wrote that, when the soul that longs for God seems to lose sight of Him through self-doubt or weakness, the Lord puts his will behind us rather than before us – pushing us on like an “invisible mainspring”.
De Caussade’s letters of spiritual direction to a convent of the Visitation, written when he could not be personally present, were collected by the sisters and kept for generations. Now published as Abandonment to Divine Providence, they are regarded as spiritual masterpieces.
There has been a “great resignation” caused by restlessness, dreams thwarted by the pandemic, and the reappraisal of priorities during months spent in lockdown.
“No longer is he the object on which our ideas are fixed, but is the principle and source of all things,” Fr de Caussade says. When we feel ourselves pushed onward by Christ, perhaps we will turn and see him before us, behind us, supporting us in unasked-for ways.
This is not to diminish the reality of suffering. Yet, as the French philosopher Simone Weil says, “The Sea is not less beautiful in our eyes because we know that sometimes ships are wrecked by it.”
Even though we may be wrecked ourselves, the ship on which we sail is unsinkable and its captain can walk on water – and can even walk out of the grave.
So this Easter we at The Catholic Weekly join our tired and run-down prayers to yours: Who is this King of Glory? He is our Lord, Jesus Christ, risen from the tomb and breaking the chains of all those throughout history who have been slaves to suffering and death.
He is with us in 2022, after years spent burned out in front of the computer, on the phone to Centrelink, in the line for COVID tests or vaccines, or in isolation chambers on hospital wards.
He is with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters on the frontlines, and he is with the terrified Russian teenagers press-ganged into service on the other side of the battlefront.
He is with those living on the streets in the driving rain. He is with the ones who, after too many months away from Church, decided not to come back.
He is with those who quit their jobs and decided to follow their dreams, and he is with those looking for stable work to get back on their feet.
So shake off your frustrations and leave aside your worries for just this week. Proclaim it with us: Christ is Risen from the dead! God is with us!