In today’s gospel we read that Jesus on hearing what had happened to John the Baptist, went away to a solitary place to try and get his head round what the events meant and to spend time reflecting and I imagine to share his sadness with his father. He often chose to go to solitary places to reflect, as do many people nowadays when wanting a break from their busy lives. He wanted to spend time alone with God, seeking peace and trusting in God to help him through whatever was happening because he knew God’s love for him and he put his faith in that great love. He knew that this was a time of waiting for him, for how long he didn’t know but he trusted God to lead him through it and he saw it as an opportunity to show God’s love in action.
How does this relate to what we are experiencing now with the coronavirus when many of us are forced into that solitary place, waiting for a time when it might be safe to interact with others, looking for some normality, some hope of it all ending. How do we deal with the solitude and in particular, how do we deal with the indefinite waiting of the lockdown restrictions. It is easier to wait and put up with something if we know how long it is going to last for, if we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. At the moment though, it seems like there’s no real idea of how long the lockdown will continue, and in what form. This uncertainty has the potential to create a lot of anxiety, which in turn can have a detrimental effect on our health, our relationships with those around us, and our relationship with God. Can we like Jesus trust in God’s great love for us and see all that is happening as an opportunity?
It can feel as if our lives are on pause at the moment or even worse, stagnating, even though we have plenty of other things to be getting on with, but it is in this waiting that growth can happen, in ourselves and in those we encounter albeit online. What feels like total isolation from all that is important to us in our church life can become an opportunity for us to come closer to God, to learn how to accept what life offers us, to wait on God to show us the way he wants us to be with other people and how we can help bring others closer to him by our patient trust in his love to help us cope.
In this time of lockdown, we don’t know how the world will look when the restrictions are lifted and the coronavirus is under control though it will never be completely gone. Our lives, our society and our world will not be the same. So how do we wait when we are not even sure what we are waiting for? How do we have hope when the life we are anticipating post-lockdown might be worse than the life pre-lockdown? In Romans 11:33 we read: “How great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible is it for us to understand his decisions and ways,” We can’t know how things will be but even though God’s decisions and ways may seem hard and difficult, they will always lead to a place of peace, hope and life, because this is what God does
for us. He gives us hope and creates much out of little as we see in today’s miracle story. There was so little food but it was enough because Jesus trusted in God to provide for all those who were waiting in hope. He knew that God wouldn’t let him down, and that was a lesson he wanted to teach his disciples too, to trust, have faith and to know that in love God would provide for them.
In this time of coronavirus we need to learn what it is that God is trying to teach us. In this time of isolation, fear and uncertainty we can begin to doubt our view of God. We must try not to let our circumstances shape our views, try not to let our fear make us think that maybe God doesn’t care about us after all, that we are really not that important to him. We need to remember the words of our Psalm today: “I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words. Wondrously show your steadfast love…..guard me as the apple of your eye and hide me in the shadow of your wings.”
Words of comfort for us when we remember that God’s steadfast love is there to guard and support us through everything we encounter. We only need to call upon him and he will listen to us., he will hear our cry and be good to us and we shall be satisfied knowing his presence is with us. So, as we wait together, not knowing how and when this coronavirus pandemic will end, “may God, the source of hope, fill us completely with joy and peace because we trust in him and know he is with us in our solitary moments, in our doubts and in our fears and that he gives us his blessing always.”