March 2021 - Life has changed, not ended

A comment we often hear and one we ourselves so often make is how quickly time passes. However, the passage of time often depends on the perspective from which we look at it. After completing the first two years in the seminary, a classmate made the comment that it will be six more years before ordination.  From his perspective, that seemed to be so far in the future.  On hearing the remark, a priest on the faculty said looking ahead at six years might seem forever but looking back at six years seems as if it were yesterday. It all depends on the perspective.  His comment certainly rings true in my life experience.

As this article goes to print, we will be in another Lenten Season and nearly a full year since the pandemic turned our world and our lives upside down.  At this time last year, who would have thought how much and to what extent the pandemic would impact our lives?  Last spring, if someone told us the pandemic would be with us for a year or more, the timeframe would have seemed an eternity. Looking back, it may seem that it has not been that long. The fact remains that what we first hoped and thought would be a temporary situation still has and will continue to have its grip on us for the foreseeable future. Although some may long to return to what could be considered the former norm, it seems to me, there is no going back. With all we have experienced in the past year, life is different; life has changed; we have changed.

We might ask ourselves how we are different or how we have changed as the result of what we have learned and experienced. Reflecting on what has been the focus of our time and energy these past months will help to provide an answer. Have we focused on what we cannot do, or rather, have we focused on what we can do? Have we been preoccupied with what we perceive we may have lost, or have we embraced what we may have gained?

For example, suffering isolation, having to quarantine, and placing limitations on numbers for in-person gatherings are a loss. However, the creative talents and efforts of many have made it possible for us to gather together and to keep us connected through the use of technology, social media, and ways we could not have imagined.  The limitations did not stop us. They challenged and stretched us, leading to new creativity that was life-giving, providing gains for us. Do we focus on the losses or on the gains? One of our priests recently told me what works for him is that he finds it easier to stay positive rather than focus on the negative.

The Lenten season provides an opportunity to reflect upon and examine our perspectives, our attitudes, our priorities, and our actions. Responding to the grace of the season, may we refocus our priorities and, where needed, change our mindsets and behavior so they more clearly reflect the values of the Gospel. In the Prayer Over the People for Wednesday in the third week of Lent we pray: “Bestow upon your servants, Lord, abundance of grace and protection; grant health of mind and body; grant fullness of fraternal charity and make them always devoted to you.”

By: Msgr. Paul Stefanko, Vicar for Priests