This preaching on Romans 8:14-28 was given for The Community Room, a virtual gathering of Springfield Dominican Sisters and Associates, on May 28. That was after the murder of George Floyd but before the nation and world erupted in protests that are changing the landscape of racial injustice around the globe.
A few years ago, I received a great birthday card. It had a cartoon picture with a girl blowing out the candles on her birthday cake surrounded by a menagerie of characters – old, young, skinny, chubby, one even toothless. Some were smiling, others seemed preoccupied, and the toothless one, well he had his plate ready to receive a big piece of cake. Underneath this picture were the words, “You’ll ALWAYS be a member of our family.” And when you opened it up, it read “So make some other wish when you blow out the candles on your cake.”
During this time of sheltering-in-place, practicing social distancing, covering our faces with masks, and greeting the ill next to first floor windows at care facilities, we have been flooded with emotions unlike those we have experienced before.
The Source of Fear
Fear unleashed by a virus that is worldwide, has no current vaccine, and remains threatening—especially to those most defenseless—has brought humanity to our knees. The lack of information and safety in knowing what is “next” for the world’s economic stability, job security, and health, enters our homes and touches us directly, no doubt leaving many with sleepless nights.
What is the source of this fear? For some, it is recognizing our own vulnerability and the overwhelming recognition that this suffering cannot be contained. For others, it is anxiety over dwindling bank accounts or non-existent salaries. And for the caregiver: the parent, the teacher, the health-care provider, the one responsible by virtue of role or commitment, there is the fear of not being enough.
We are Enough
In the Letter to the Romans, the writer pulls us from our paralysis to first and foremost remember…remember…we are enough…because we are NOT alone, we have never been alone. We do nothing by ourselves. We are nothing by ourselves. We are children of God. Heirs with Christ. United by the Spirit. And we are not finished “becoming” as individuals, or as God’s beloved community. Can we imagine that this pandemic, as tragic as it is, may be an opportunity to become more of whom God dreams us to be?
Change: incremental or unfurling fast?
Creation, unfinished, always evolving, ever changing, has and will always have cataclysmic events—some through the natural progression of life and death, cause and effect—others caused by human choice and neglect. Some events will unfold incrementally throughout billions of years. Others may unfurl their outcomes or consequences quickly. Some create watershed moments, demanding more than a prophet of one.
It can be overwhelming if we think it is all on us. And so, we groan. Some of us groan loudly. But in this cycle of birth, life, death, and resurrection we possess the Spirit of God, the advocate promised by Christ, who reminds us that all things work together for the good of those who love God, according to God’s purpose.
This is our HOPE. Working together—through Christ, with Christ and in Christ. Working together—breath with breath, element with element, neighbor with neighbor, species with species, and nation with nation.
God Relies on Us
Ilia Delio, a Franciscan sister, scientist and theologian writes, “The love of God encourages us to dream and feel loved by God, who not only loves us in return but is relying on us to bring this overall creation story to completion. There is so much suffering all around us, the victims of COVID-19, but also the victims of human trafficking, the victims of random shootings, the victims of racism, the victim of child abuse, the victims of poverty and homelessness. The list of those suffering in the world is endless. To return to 'normal' is to miss an important God-invitation to turn our lives in a completely new direction, to first realize that God needs us to be God in the world—then to transform the energies of our present suffering into energies of sympathetic planetary life, co-creators of compassion, peace, forgiveness and shared resources, to create systems for a world converging toward complexified unity.”
Hope is born of promises kept. In times such as these might we reflect on God’s faithfulness to us throughout time and especially in this time? As we move from the Easter Season and the Solemnity of the Ascension, to anticipate Pentecost next week, let us not forget to whom we belong and who will guide us forward. Let us leave our upper rooms of fear and bring Christ into the world together. Let us not fear to hope. We are family.
Sister Rebecca Ann Gemma, OP, is the prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield.