The cross calls us to transformative love, so let’s reflect on Christ’s sacrifice throughout the…
Remember the graces when things go back to normal
“When we get back to normal.”
It’s the clause that we all seem to be thinking, saying, praying these days. Even with Lent behind us, the pall of sacrifice can’t help but continue to hang over our heads and our hearts.
Each of us probably has a “back to normal” list. Back to Mass, certainly. Back with our extended family. Maybe a trip back to a favorite restaurant, a night out back at the movies or a gathering back with a book club or a choir.
It’s only natural. We are longing to return to what once was. We are aching for the familiar, the planned, the ordered. We are waiting to hit “play” on our “paused” lives, to pick things back up from where we left off.
But it has struck me throughout all of this, as it’s no doubt struck many of you, that maybe the Lord is telling us through this strange time of global pandemic that what, for many of us, has become “normal” isn’t good enough anymore.
This might look different for each one of us. Perhaps we have come to normalize convenience, waste, laziness or extravagance. Perhaps our normal has come to mean overly busy schedules, limited family time or little prayer time. Perhaps we have become a slave to routine, to checking boxes, to plans, to control. This is the temporal baggage that comes with being human. As flawed beings prone to sin and selfishness, we create “normals” that, in the end, aren’t all that good for us.
We chase dreams centered around professional success, financial gain, outward beauty, the opinions of others, our own self-importance, or any other number of red herrings. And when they are suddenly pulled from us, when we are forced to slow down, we feel loss. But loss, in some ways, might be just what we need. For the Lord might be telling us: “Slow down; those things don’t matter; your priorities are all mixed up. I made you for more than your normal.”
And he did. He made us to love him and to be with him forever in heaven. He sent his son to earth to show us a new normal — a new way of living: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:39). In the busyness of our self-made normals, we forget that our every word and deed should not be centered around our wants and desires, but around those of Jesus. And his desire is for us to follow him, to love him and to strive with all our might to be with him in heaven.
We are in the midst of a tremendous challenge. This coronavirus pandemic has demanded that we completely redefine what our everyday life looks like, and it is only natural to want things to swing back into familiar territory — to return to some semblance of normal. But we are being offered an opportunity to examine our normal. To turn it upside down, to look at it from all angles, and to ask ourselves: Is this how I want to live my life? Is this how I should be living my life?
Since the onset of social distancing in mid-March, I have seen so many encouraging things. People are communicating more and appreciating one another more. They’re thinking outwardly instead of inwardly. They’ve literally turned in jet-setting and paper-publishing for fort-building and bread-baking. I’ve seen more prayer, more family time and more concern for others. Even in this time away from Mass, I believe there has been a deeper cultivation of appreciation for the Eucharist. I’m sure you’ve seen it, too.
Let’s not forget these small graces when “we get back to normal.”
Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at OSV. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.