Welcome to Cathy Jenkins who will be contributing a monthly column to our newsletter. Cathy is a theologian, educator and writer. She is currently Executive Director, Mission Leadership, Mercy Health Australia. You will also see Cathy at Saturday evening Mass at Deepdene where she and friends Sonya Morrisey and Adam Bianco often lead us in song. We are sure you will enjoy Cathy’s reflections.
There are times in our lives when we become keenly aware of our fragility. Perhaps we are challenged by the decline in the health of aging parents; we may be caring for an unwell or unhappy child; perhaps we have our own health scare bringing with it days of endless waiting for test results or for a wound to become a scar; or it may be that we are just experiencing a time in life when we feel we are barely able to keep our head above what seems to be rocky and treacherous life waters. In these fragile times we may feel as though we have lost our footing. All that we thought we knew is now unknown. It can be tiring in that storm-tossed boat even if, as people of faith, we trust in the presence of Jesus.
I suspect that, at the moment, we are all feeling a bit fragile as we tread this pandemic path. Nothing is certain – lockdown seems to occur with an unnerving lack of notice. And we are carrying pandemic wounds. Who would have thought that a job could be lost so easily? Or that a business once so profitable could be brought to the brink or go under? Or that there would be limits on who could attend a funeral or visit a loved one; that a long-planned event could be cancelled, or a rite of passage missed? That face masks and hand sanitiser would become part of daily life? That lockdown could be so lonely. The list goes on – each of us carrying our own story against the backdrop of the pandemic story, a pandemic wound yet to become a scar.
Fragile times can raise deep questions in us. We may feel small, anxious and diminished. And I wonder, what is it that can uphold us at times like this?
I was recently gifted a Hellebore. It’s quite beautiful: its slender green stems uphold impossibly large, beautiful pink-tinged flowers. But appearances can be deceiving! Although slender, this stem is strong enough. Strong enough to uphold and nourish the blooms that emerge from it. Strong enough to survive the balcony wind and rain that at times surround it. Strong enough.
And I think about the weight that this pandemic brings for us all. This cloud of unknowing that surrounds us. The fear of illness and death. The profound sense of loss we may carry for what used to be. There is a danger that this weight will overwhelm even the most resilient faith-filled spirit.
But we also know that this weight of unknowing is something with which the ancient peoples were familiar. The nose to the dust times, the cry from the heart of ‘how long O Lord?’, the weariness of the desert times, the longing for relief from oppression. The psalms can become our friends in a new way carrying, perhaps, some of the weight with us.
And perhaps it is helpful to remember that, in the midst of it all, our ancestors also experienced the love of a sustaining and upholding God. The God who led them through their wilderness. The God who responded to their cries. This is the God who became human amongst us, allowing his Son, Jesus, to take our burdens upon his shoulders. This is our sustaining thread – Jesus: the one who lived, died and rose from the dead. This thread of faith that connects us to the past, holds our present and prepares us for the future, reminding us that there is always life.
So, may we be confident that this too will pass because we know, because our ancestors have told us, that nothing is impossible for God. That the dawn always breaks. That suffering is not the final story. That even in this fragile time, the spirit is active and alive in the world. That Jesus rose from the dead, bringing life.
So, let us rest in the knowledge that God is with us in our fragile times. And maybe that is enough.
By Cathy Jenkins