Keeping our eyes on God
A reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year B
by Rachel Wong
One year ago today, I received an email from my boss telling me not to come in to work the coming Monday due to concerns of the spread of COVID-19 here in Vancouver. A year later, I think many would argue that things haven’t gotten better – in fact, many may say that things are worse.
I think for many of us, this lockdown has illuminated many things that perhaps have gone unnoticed in our usually busy lives. All the things I used to do as outwards signs of my faith were suddenly taken away. Mass suddenly took place in my living room. Adoration was on my laptop. In-person fellowship was curtailed and conferences were moved online. The lack of activity was unbearable.
A few weeks into our lockdown, I remember sitting on the floor of my room, staring up at the crucifix on my wall. As I fidgeted on the carpet, I found myself praying for an end to COVID-19 so that things could go back to the way they were. And while it was a noble prayer and an objectively good desire, God, in His mercy, nudged my heart in a different direction.
Even now, Rachel, will you love me?
His voice pierced the uncomfortable silence.
Even now, when you’re not able to visit the adoration chapel, will you love me?
Even now, when you can’t see your friends at young adult events, will you love me?
Even now, when you can’t wear your favourite outfit to Mass, will you love me?
All of the trivial things that I associated with being a good Catholic were laid out in front of me. In a swift moment, the Lord’s words arrested me. I had no good or reasonable answer for Him.
My entire faith life up until March 14, 2020, was focused on outward signs and doing. But in a year of “new realities” where I couldn’t “do” anything, the Lord was humbling me to accept a reality that wasn’t new: In His infinite love and mercy, He already paid the price. And there was nothing that I needed to “do” to earn His love.
This is the same refrain given to the Ephesians by St. Paul: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (2:8). This is not just a reality for the Early Church. This continues to be a truth for us today, even as we patiently await our freedom from this horrendous virus.
God is in no need of our praise, but out of love He created all of us so that we can experience His love. The God who is love sent His only son as a ransom for our sins. I think we hear these truths so often that over time, we lose sight of it in the hustle and bustle of Bible studies, fellowship, group novenas, and conferences. And to be clear, all
of these things are objectively good. But when we lose sight of who
all of this is for, all these things lose their value.
The heart and joy of the Gospel is so beautifully tied up in this week’s Gospel reading – very fittingly on Laetare Sunday. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are afforded everlasting life. And everything that we do, every good deed that we perform, needs to point back to God. As St. John writes, “…those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God” (John 3:21).
Not in me, but in God.
So many of my deeds were done for me. While I’m sure that God appreciated them, what He desired even more was my heart: a heart set aside for Him, one that loves Him even when all my plans are changed and I’m outside of my comfort zone.
If there’s one thing I’ve come to see with this pandemic, it’s that we are clearly not meant to go back to the way things were. There is an opportunity here for us to re-evaluate our personal relationship with God and for us to be reminded daily that all the things we do are not solely for us and our glory. The question God asked me early on – will you still love me? –
continues to echo in my heart. Out of His love and mercy, He’s already done all of the heavy lifting. All I need to do is to keep my eyes fixed on Him, even in discomfort, even in difficulty, and even in the midst of a global pandemic.
The readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year B, are
2 Chronicles 36:14-17a, 19-23
Rachel Wong is a writer and speaker living in Surrey, BC. She writes and speaks frequently on Catholic femininity, the intersection of faith and mental health, and her personal faith journey.
Rachel is also the host of The Feminine Genius Podcast, a podcast inspired by Pope St. John Paul II and his writings on women.
Learn more: https://rchlcwng.com