Ruth Burrows, whom I have often drawn on in this column, wrote in Before the Living God of the formative years of her life: ‘If I were to say I want to show people what really matters is utter trust in God; that this trust cannot be there until we have lost all self-trust and are rooted in poverty; that we must be willing to go to God with empty hands and that the whole meaning of our existence and the one consuming desire of the heart of God is that we should let ourselves be loved, many spiritual persons would smile at my naïveté.’ People will switch off. ‘We know all that’. But, she says, they know it in theory. In practice, our heart is divided, as Hosea said it was, long back (10:2). What if we were to utterly trust God and come to him with empty hands?
Peter Paul Kennedy was a renowned English Jesuit who was appointed to run the final segment of Jesuit formation for an international group of Jesuit priests. The story is told that his opening words on the first day he met them were, ‘Fathers, the cupboard is bare, I have nothing to offer’. What they made of this is not recorded but he went on to lead them through a programme that is still remembered decades later by those who were on it. He came ‘with empty hands’ but he filled their hearts.
We live in a critical time and, as the weeks give way to months, people are beginning to tire of the unseen enemy. When will we get back to normal? When can we go back to bars, restaurants, football games, beaches? People in Europe seem almost desperate to go on holiday! Yet the World Health Organisation warns that the pandemic is nowhere near over and, in Africa, the worst may be yet to come.
In the early weeks of Covid 19 we rejoiced in the cleaner air, the return of birds to our towns and the attention we were giving to each other. We wondered if we could implant these blessings in some permanent way into our societies. But gradually the impact on the economy of staying at home became more noticeable and a growing sense of frustration, even panic, began to grip us. In searching for scapegoats, governments looked for undocumented migrants as carriers of the virus and expelled them.
The words of the song Joan Baez popularised at the time of the Vietnam War, have come back to haunt us, ‘When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?’ The war seemed pointless and this repeated question lingered in the air. It still lingers as we stumble from crisis to crisis. We never seem to learn. Yes, we pray for an end to the virus but do we do so with empty hands? Do we ever learn to allow God to show us the way or are we so sure we know it? Do we not cling on to our own ‘solutions’ without allowing room for God to show us the way? ‘The whole of creation is groaning in one great act of giving birth’ (Romans 8:22)
12 July 2020 Sunday 15 A Isaiah 55:10-11 Romans 8:18-23 Matt 13:1-23Post published in: Faith