There was a great New Yorker cartoon the other day that featured a woman looking down to the empty streets below and saying into her phone, “We’re in the part of the movie that’s usually a montage.” This desire to speed up time and just get through to the other side of this pandemic been a common theme lately in many conversations I’ve had with friends, colleagues, and family. Of course, every generation has its defining season of struggle — seasons of plague, economic depression, or war are nothing new. And we can no more choose the times we live in and the struggles we need to face any more than we can choose our family of origin.
The question is, how do we respond when the days of struggle come? (And, pandemic or no, even in the most charmed of lives, hard times were going to come to each of us. In this life there is no ‘Get out of Suffering Free’ card.)
In today’s Gospel reading we see Jesus in a particularly vulnerable moment when he too was struggling with what he was going to have to face:
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name” (Jn 12.27f).
He knew what was up. He knew where his path was taking him. He says these words at the end of a discourse about needing to lose your life to find life, after all. He knew what he had to do. But that didn’t make it any easier.
This is what courage looks like: “My soul is troubled,” but still “glorify your name.” This is what trust looks like: “It is for this reason that I have come to this hour.”
We can’t choose the hour of our life. We are simply called, like Jesus, to be faithful within that hour, to offer whatever it is we can within that hour.
This isn’t easy and we will need to recommit ourselves constantly to this path. Even Jesus, after steeling himself for the path before him, will come to a similar moment in a just a few days, praying in the garden “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done” (Lk. 22.42).
And so the question for us today is what is it we are being called to offer in our present hour? For some it could be juggling their own workload while needing to provide support and education for their children. For some it could be reaching out to friends who might be particularly vulnerable to the dangers of loneliness and isolation. For some it could be picking up groceries for an elderly or immuno-compromised neighbour. For others it is the hard front line work of making sure people in our communities have food on their table, our hospitals are clean, or the sick and suffering receive the best care possible under terrible circumstances. And for some it could simply be facing each new day as it is. That can be offering enough.
These are hard — challenging, uncertain, disruptive — times. And our souls are troubled. But we can face them with the same courage and faith as Jesus faced his own trials. We can glorify God’s name in our words and actions. We can say with him, “It is for this reason that I have come to this hour,” and step forward, offering whatever it is we have to offer.