PEACE! It’s one of the essential commodities that we need now. Unfortunately, it’s something that we cannot buy from the grocery stores or online. If we could buy it, it will run out fast like toilet paper!
How do we obtain peace during these trying times?
The Scripture Readings last Sunday on the Feast of Divine Mercy gives us some clues.
First, it’s through something free; that all of us have time to do. It’s prayer. The Reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us that it’s what the early Christians did. They devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes.
Yes, our temples, our churches are closed during this pandemic, and we cannot worship together. But we can have the temples of our hearts, the temples of our homes.
One of the blessings that came out of this crisis is that we learned to pray more even without being inside a church. We pray more in our living rooms or on our beds before we close our eyes to sleep. We pray in the garden and outside while we walk around. We pray in silence and solitude. We pray more with our loved ones, which we may not have done before.
Our computers and smartphones allowed us to pray during the live streaming of masses. And although we cannot go to Confession and receive Communion, the Church has assured us that with perfect contrition and promise to go to Confession later, we receive the absolute forgiveness of God.
One of the most effective prayers that we have now is the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Every time we utter the words, “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and the whole world,” the Lord liberates us from our fears.
My friends, there is no better weapon to handle our fears and anxieties than prayer.
Second, we need to connect with one another. Isolation does not mean a lack of connection. By connection, I mean not just merely talking casually with someone. It means being vulnerable enough to share our feelings and being understanding to listen to another person’s concerns.
In the Gospel, the disciple who showed his vulnerability the most was Thomas, whom we call the Doubting Thomas. He was not afraid to be vulnerable. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into his nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe,” he told his fellow disciples.
You might say that this is a lack of faith. But perhaps we need to understand Thomas and listen to him before judging him. He’s like anyone of us who, sometimes, experience doubt in our faith. Don’t we sometimes say, “Lord, are you listening to our prayers?”
The critical thing to do in moments of fears and doubts is to find someone to talk with and to encourage us in our faith.
One of the encouraging and relieving experiences I had during this lockdown is my connection with parishioners through zoom prayer meetings and sharing. Yesterday, I had two of these types of meetings. Digitally we prayed together and shared our blessings and concerns. After each of these Zoom meetings, most of us felt relieved and encouraged to face another day of this pandemic.
Third, we need to distract ourselves from listening to the news and from wallowing in fear. My friend would always tell me about it. How do we distract ourselves? It’s by doing things that we love to do, like cooking, baking, gardening, and watching inspiring movies. It’s by nurturing our creative qualities like doing some artwork.
In one of the appearances of the Risen Lord, the disciples distracted themselves by going out fishing! And it is in this work that they loved to do that Jesus appeared to them.
Fourth, destroy. Destroy the image of the triumph of death and despair in your mind. Remember that in His Divine Mercy, the Lord has promised us an eternal home with God!
One of my dear priest-friends is dying of cancer. In a letter to his friends and parishioners, he shared that he is ready to meet our Creator and that he is at peace with going HOME.
So, here are four suggestions to deal with fear and anxiety.
• Pray more and worry less
• Connect and not isolate
• Distract yourselves from worries with creative works
• Destroy any desperate images of death!
Here’s a prayer for all of you, using some trending vocabularies today:
Risen Christ, flatten the curb of this pandemic, heal the sick, and bring comfort to those in grief.
Mitigate our fears, calm down our anxious spirits.
Help us to zoom in on the essential matters of life.
Let us feel safer at the home of your heart that exudes rays of mercy and love Help us to cast out any doubt and any thought that you are distancing from us.
Let us feel your love and peace so that we can remove the masks of our fears.
Let the marks of your wounds allow us to see each other’s woundedness and the wounds of humanity.
Unite us online, at home, as a country, and a world. Help us always to remember the goodness of your heart. Amen.
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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.