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Grace in Difficult Times

I asked my wife what I should write about for my blog. She responded with the above title "grace in difficult times." Is that not the subject of all posts? Is that not the very heart of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus?

Indeed, we find ourselves in difficult times. Some are sick with COVID-19 and other illness and depending on a strained medical system. Some are doctors, nurses, or caregivers working hard every day to care for the sick on thinning resources. Some are laid off from work or were looking for work when the COVID-19 health crisis ground our economy and society to a halt. Some have suddenly found themselves as full time employees and homeschooling parents simultaneously, struggling to balance these needs. All of us are in the context of great societal stress and anxiety.

Yet the grace of God, the favor of God and love of God toward us, is with us now as much as ever. God's grace is not absent from these circumstances but indeed present and alive in the midst of them, working even through them to bring grace, virtue, and good for us through the difficult times. Maximus the Confessor wrote

"If God suffers in the flesh when He is made man, should we not rejoice when we suffer, for we have God to share our sufferings This shared suffering confers the kingdom on us. For he spoke truly who said, 'If we suffer with Him, then we shall also be glorified with Him' (Rom. 8:17)...The outcome of every affliction endured for the sake of virtue is joy, of every labor rest, and of every shameful treatment glory; in short, the outcome of all sufferings for the sake of virtue is to be with God, to remain with Him for ever and to enjoy eternal rest."

God does not wish us suffering, brokenness, sin, or death. In fact, God took on our human form in order to defeat those enemies. Today we mark the Feast of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary and announced the Incarnation to her, that she would conceive and bear a Son, the Holy One of God. Mary responded with her great "yes" to God's will, submitting herself to God's plan of salvation.

We today are in the place of Mary. Are we open to birthing God's will for the world during these difficult times? Are our hearts, eyes, and ears truly open to the opportunity to bring God's goodness out of the suffering of this time? Do we have the same compassionate heart for the world that is in Jesus, to put an end to the enemies of suffering, sin, and death through our daily choices and actions?

These days will continue to be difficult for some time. All of us are asked to endure some amount of hardship, some amount of stress and difficulty. Let us open our hearts to the grace to sustain us through it so we can birth God's will and plan of salvation into the world for us and all of those in our neighborhoods, communities, and the whole world. May the angel Gabriel speak peace and goodwill to you in this time of trial, and may the grace of God lift you up into his presence now and always.

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