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COVID-19: A pastor’s perspective: No matter how exhausted we may be, God will always be there

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Father David BonnarIf you talk to most people I think you will find that they are all expressing the same sentiment — namely, “I am tired of all this.” The COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to take an emotional toll on people’s spirits and morale. Just because one may not have the virus does not mean that in some way they are not pained by it. The pain is one of weariness. And yet, how can it be, that with more and more people working less, there seems to be more fatigue among us all?

The weariness of this moment is rooted in fear and anxiety. There are just so many unknowns, not to mention myriad questions. Who is going to contract this virus next? What if it is a loved one? When are we ever going to resume any sense of normalcy to our lives? How will life ever be the same? Where can we find entertainment given that all the venues have been shut down? When can I have a day off and just do what I want to do?

It is not just the stress that is draining. The lack of a consistent schedule can be just as consuming. I used to live with an older priest who would often say, “If you keep a schedule, the schedule will keep you.” As mundane as our daily agendas can become, there is something very comforting about structure and routine. No doubt, the disruption to our schedule presents more time to think. Sadly, often this “thinking” becomes worrying.

I live with an older priest now who often says, “Why worry, when you can pray.” Within this moment, there is for all of us an invitation to worry less and to pray more. In our prayer, Jesus wants us to come to him with our stresses and struggles. He says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Prayer allows us to rest in the loving arms of Jesus and surrender our lives to him.

One night after a long day, so the story goes, Pope John XXIII knelt down to pray and simply said, “Dear Lord, it is your Church. I am going to sleep.” What a beautiful prayer of surrender!

I don’t know about you, but part of my exhaustion comes from an overwhelming sense of responsibility as a leader. Responsibility is my greatest strength, but it is also my most glaring weakness. It is both a blessing and a curse.

True prayer always puts me in my place as I am humbly reminded of who I am and whose I am. I am a child of God, and he is in charge, not me. During this unsettling time, I know I need to pray more and listen to those words, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:11).

As tired as we may be right now, perhaps even in our prayer, we must never forget that God never tires of us or our concerns. He always loves us. The antiphon for night prayer of Monday night captures this so well, “O Lord, our God, unwearied is your love for us” (Liturgy of the Hours). No matter how exhausted we may be, God will always be there for us.

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 15 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.

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