19 May Spiritual conversation with priest Darius Marcinkevičius
WHAT DOES GOD SAY TO ME?
I think that today it is important to ask yourself: what is important about time of Lent, Easter in this year? It looks like God is giving trial for us, which we can call a pandemic, COVID-19. To be indifferent or to say that nothing important happened here… everything is happening in its usual bed and is under control – would not be truth. Quarantine, pandemic, a large number of diseased in the world, without knowing how it will progress in Lithuania, is reasonable to have anxiety and uncertainty in our minds.
In relationship with our dear ones we can experience various trials, difficulties… we have more time to stay at home. We can’t say, that God allows people to be more concentrated on human affairs: perspective of our future, work or freedom from work, worries about our health or potential disease. At all times man is invited to open and sincere relationship with God. Especially today we have to be fearless and encourage ourself with words: Jesus is always together with me. He is together with me in my loneliness, my quarantine, my isolation place, because it is the way it is. In time of Lent and Advent, God wants our sincere search of Him and to discover Him. Everyday we rediscover God, rediscover His infinite love for every person. And in this time of trials, this discovery of love reminds us, that God, has a plan for our life and life of humanity. Question we have to raise: if a person will be searching God? How our faith and trust in Him will look like, if we will get this disease? I think that churches, should not only be the place for people to get insurance from God, place to lit a candle or ask for intercession from saints, but also a place to sincerely search for a God. Today we have this big question: what God do we really need? God who only fulfills our request and desires? Or a God, who also in a case of Job – person of an Old Testament – allows us to walk through hardships in life only to purify our faith even more, to purify our intentions regarding faith.
I want to quote a reading from Holly Bible, the book of Malachi (Mal 3.19): “The day of the Lord is near. Here! Near is the day, flaming like a furnace! All the evil and wicked will become a stubble – the coming day will burn them so much – said the Almighty LORD – that they will be left without a root nor branch!”. I ask myself all the time, is today’s global pandemic not a scourge of God to test our faith and patience during the Lent – in the period of fasting, prayer, repentance, and good deeds for remembering the suffering and death of Christ for the sins of men? What would be your interpretation on this and other questions as a clergyman?
I don’t think so. I think God is infinite love. Love cannot punish and is not punishing. God can allow a person to face one or another ordeal. And today, when we want to ask, is this pandemic not a scourge of God? I would already think that God could beat us so many times and so many times could, in some way, bring us pain. And it seems to me that the biggest “pandemic” or “scourge” of today’s world is that man wants to be God himself, he wants to be the one who accepts and decides for himself what is good, what is evil. The scourge is a tool of punishment. Jesus dies on the cross in order to save us forever and give us Eternal Life. Punishment – the Tree of the Cross – became not a tool of punishment, but a tool of love. The disease can be used to purify our faith. For four years I worked as a chaplain in the Republican Hospital in Šiauliai, formerly I am working as a chaplain of Vilnius Santariškės clinics, and I saw many people who, being healthy and energetic, like many of us, had a big plans in January, thinking about what we would do in April, May or June. And suddenly, in early March, we are confronted with that which says: Attention! Let’s live differently! And it was a disease, for many people I have met on the path of my life, which was such a kind of roller coaster. In the beginning a man said: God, I will revolt now! I will have less faith now! I will now less… why is this for me? Why me, when I am only forty, maybe only thirty, or when I am forty five, You are allowing these pains come to me. You allow to experience this uncertainty. I’m waiting for the results and I don’t know, maybe…maybe it will be a malignant, maybe a non-malignant tumor. And when a man went that long way towards his personal Golgotha in his life, where being weary and tortured he would die, I would see in his eyes an immense change, an immense experience of some kind, in which man would still realize that this suffering was not something free or that suffering in his case was unnecessary. And when we often ask, this is the eternal question, why does God allow a man to suffer? I have read that without suffering a man would not really realize meaning of the fullness of life, and that does not mean that each of us must suffer, get sick, be incurably sick, but God speaks in form of suffering. And I think this period, that we are going through, must be a time of more hope, more brightness, beautiful intentions of trust in God, and not this: God, what are you doing with our lives now?
I think we are well aware today that in the Old Testament we can discover many encounters between the Jewish nation – the chosen nation – and the trials of God. Those trials were as the result, as the ultimate goal of choices of those people – of the chosen nation – because they worshiped idols and God wanted to remind them that they have the opportunity to be converted.
And I am very confident that this Easter will be even more beautiful because people will realize that God has not become any further from them. God did not stray from man, God bore to every sick, suffering, or lonely person. This time may not be understood as a time of blessing or a time of God’s grace. But I would call it a time of God’s grace for all of us and let us be very sincere to each one, because it is easy to have trust when there is no great danger, when there is no great trial.
How to strengthen faith and trust in God in these difficult days of trials? How to get rid of the ever-persecuting fear and anxiety arising from ignorance?
These times we are going through, is historic for both priests and worldly men. I have read the comment, that at this time priests are hiding, but they could be closer to the diseased, closer to the sick. We are trying to listen to the Government’s invitation, just like every citizen to comply with certain requirements in this fight against the epidemic, and we understand that if a priest would be sharing the most Sacred Sacramento in the hospital, he would probably already be isolated after such a visit. These are new challenges that we should consider, renovate at the end of a pandemic, and by serving God and people we could be closer to the diseased, suffering and lonely, those who need the intercession and help of God.
How to not lose hope and peace of soul with a help of faith, without losing hope, when the consequences of a new serious pandemic began to emerge: the number of diseased, hospitalized, suffering, dying people is increasing? The threat of hunger is increasing because people are unemployed, many elders and children are separated and in quarantine. We cry together with the Lord with our broken hearts.
Pope Francis invites for a daily prayer for the sick, for the prisoners and the innocently convicted, for the outcasts and those who are losing hope. The mission of our community is to pray for God’s help to all people who are currently losing their jobs, who do not have the opportunity to provide the social, essential guarantees for their family, their children, so that people do not fall into despair. In quarantine, we must encourage one another and not only encourage but also be apostles of prayer. Prayer and faith are especially needed in these times for the intercession of the suffering people.
St. Roch is considered a guardian of sufferers for AIDS and other epidemic diseases.
What could you reveal more about his holy life?
Since 1327 Holy Roch is considered a patron of the sick and is often symbolized in ecclesiastical arts with a black stain above the knee (a sign of plague), a stick and a travel bag (pilgrim symbols), with a Gotthard dog holding a loaf of bread and an angel watchman. It is such a beautiful legend about St. Roch. During the epidemic of plague in Europe, Roch, staying without home and human warmth, cared and treated patients who were infected with the disease. While caring for the sick in the town of Piacenza, Roch himself became infected with plague. Not wanting to become a burden on others, he moved into the forest, where he had hope to spend the last moments of his life. But in this situation, God did not forsake him. The Roch was rescued by a dog, who carried food from the owner’s house and licked his wounds. One day, the dog was followed to the forest by his owner, Gotthard, who brought Roch home and finally healed him.
I think that now, during a pandemic, a particularly we should sharp cry for St. Roch intercession and custody. But again, let us in no way forget the saints of our country: St. Casimir, Blessed Archbishop Theophilius Matulionis. By the Bishops’ Conference we are all invited to pray to St. Joseph – globally for all families and all people. Our prayer will be efficient as much as we will put our hearts in it. I think that both in a pandemic and in other complicated situations people are praying more sincerely, because we are those people, when there is a better times, we are saying: thank you God for being! but at the same time we think, that God is in some distance from us. In the sermon, I have said what St. Augustine says: that God is not only in heaven, but God is one in our hearts and only in the depths of our hearts we can discover Him. It takes effort and desire, and I believe that a pandemic time would mobilize not only the medical community, our government, but also our believers as we try to see the needy, those who ask for our prayers. I have to confess, at the time of the sacrifice of St. Mass, looking at an empty church, into some kind of little camera, which helps us to reach our parishioners and all the people who join us through our facebook page of our parish. It is also hour of grace, when we could not even imagine that we will enter this time of Lent, time of Easter in such a way. All that is now – thank you God, help us God, accompany us God, do not leave us God. Amen.
Thank you very much for your reply.
Raimonda Liepienė, president of the Living Rosary Prayer Society.
8th of April 2020
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