By Marissa Brown
The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I lack. -Psalm 23:1
The days are long, the nights are longer. We seek what we do not have, we long for our life that we had a short 40 days ago. Loneliness creeps in and the devil whispers in your ear, my dear you are not good enough to handle all that has been given to you. The dishes pile up, the tenth load of laundry is tossing around in the dryer and you look at the clock and realize another meal has to be prepared. Is he right?
The doubt hovers, the fear settles in your heart. You allow a quiet prayer to escape in your breath, “Mary please help me, please show me how to do this, how to survive the everyday.” She gently turns your vision to the crucifix. She asks you to fix your eyes upon her son and where he is leading you. Your eyes are open to what he has provided you in the moment. You lack nothing.
The loneliness that you feel, keep that close to your heart so you may never again take for granted the smile from a stranger. The dishes piled in the sink pay homage to the food that feeds your family. The laundry that is never ending means that your children do not go without. The crucifix that hangs in your home, that gives you the strength to whisper back to the devil, not today. I am strong enough. I have someone who is leading me where you cannot go.
In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me. -Psalm 23:2
Three weeks ago we were running. Racing though Lent at a breakneck speed. Scribbling down our Lenten promises, marking them down on our to do list. Already planning for Easter egg hunts and where we were going to have our Easter morning brunch. Lent was something we needed to get through so we could have our big celebration at the end.
We made our promises to pray more, drink less, give a hard pass on the chocolate and grab our rosaries more often. We were running to ballet class, running to meetings, basketball practice and games. Yelling phrases such as:
“Hurry up we are going to be late.”
“Grab your water bottle.”
“Did you finish your homework?”
“I can’t wash your uniform if you don’t put it in the dirty clothes.”
“Hurry, Hurry Hurry!”
Life was hectic, we were overworked, too busy trying to keep up. Making sure our kids were on the right teams, didn’t miss out on the next opportunity, we wore our badge of busyness like it was a medal from the Olympics. We went to mass getting there just in time for the first song, ran out of mass, grabbed a donut, visited with friends and talked about how much we had to do that Sunday afternoon, while the kids begged to play or stay just a little longer. Our answer was always, we can’t, we have too much to do today. We attended Bible studies and adult faith classes, only to fall asleep in the middle of a meditation or forget to complete the study until the hour before the next meeting, we just had so much going on in each of our lives.
And then the world stopped. The busyness ceased.
There were no more meetings or reasons to rush. We lost our lives as we had known them, school, church, sports, activities all were cancelled, our ability to gather with friends and extended family was snatched away. Lent however, continued, the race to the crucifixion persisted. We were placed in isolation with only our families and our faith. Calvary awaited and the distractions that normally take us away from the long road to the cross were gone. Silence came and the shadow of the cross loomed.
In the new quiet, there is Jesus. In our solitude, he leads us to rest with him. We can now look upon the cross and recognize the extraordinary sacrifice and gift his death and resurrection really were. The empty calendar allows us to listen to his plan for us, our eyes open to the beauty that surrounds us in the everyday. Gaze upon the stillness of your life and ask what are the lessons I am going to take away from this time? How am I going to use this time to prioritize the day to day when life returns to “normal”?
He restores my soul, He guides me along right paths for the sake of His name. -Psalm 23:3
We have reached a fork in the road, the pause button has been pushed and our lives seem to be hovering in the balance of what there was before and what there will be after. We have been given this unique moment to be able to look into the past, to watch it unfold, see our mistakes and our greatest accomplishments and to glance into a future that never was.
We can look at our calendars that were filled out with the spring sports, graduations, parties, first communions, proms, egg hunts, dance recitals, school plays, celebrating the Last Supper, the way of the cross and the great Alleluia that the trumpet declares on Easter morning. When we look at all of these events sketched on our calendars and the realization that none of them are happening in the way we thought they would, it knocks us down, a tightness rises in our chest and tears begin to fall. This is the moment that will define who we are when this is over.
Wipe those events clean from the calendar and envision what it will look like when we can fill our days again. Close your eyes, breathe slowly, one breath at a time. Begin your prayer, allow your mind to settle and feel your soul begin to stir. Envision the risen Christ standing before you, his hand stretched out, reaching for you. You can see the wounds marking his hands, his death was for you, your sins helped create those marks, yet there he is gazing upon you, loving you and wanting you to follow him in a whole new way.
He has a new path laid out for you where he is first in all that you do when the play button is pushed and life begins again. Let us keep the family rosaries going, keep taking the walks with our families after dinner, keep the gift of being still and quiet, something we try and do frequently. Nourish your soul daily with his word, long for the Eucharist the way we were longing for it now in this time of isolation. The path is laid before us, Jesus is standing there waiting to guide us, let us not stray.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. Psalm 23:4
In these last few weeks, we have been bombarded with news and statistics that inspire fear and worry. We have been forced into this isolation that keeps us physically disconnected from our friends and extended family, oftentimes sparking anxiety and feelings of helplessness. Death and illness are the headlines everywhere, forcing us to think about our own mortality. We have all been given our own “Memento Mori” moment, the idea that we all will die someday has been brought into focus. How appropriate this has come into focus as we walked through Lent.
It is so easy to be afraid, to let the devil sit on your shoulder and stoke the embers of anxiety to let him whisper fearful thoughts that makes your heartbeat a little faster. The uneasiness is so hard to shake, it permeates everything you do, every time you have to run to the store, each person you have to dodge in the aisles, every encounter you are supposed to avoid.
Yet, here we are at Easter and the promises Christ resurrection holds for each of us. That even though we are walking through a valley filled with the threat of death and sickness, we do not need to be afraid. Swipe the devil from your shoulder and cling to the promises of the empty tomb. Wash away the fear and anxious feelings with joy and confidence in the risen Lord.
Take the time we have been given, the gift of your life and live it out fully with the love of God radiating from your soul. Cling to the risen Christ relying on him for strength and guidance as you navigate these new waters we all are wading through. Celebrate this Easter with a new sense of St. John Paul II’s famous quote “Do not abandon yourself to despair, we are an Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.”
Embrace your family Easter morning with a new zest for life and hold onto the memories of those who have already left this life and give a prayer of thanksgiving that this special holiday holds the promise we will see them again and embrace in our heavenly home. Let us all come out of this crisis renewed in our time away from one another, let us have no fear in our path for Jesus is leading us.
Looking for ideas for celebrating Easter at home? Check out Ascension Family Life Ministry’s Easter resources here: