This month’s blog series focuses on the grace we pray for in the second week of the Spiritual Exercises: to know, to love, and to follow Jesus. Today Beth Knobbe shares with us how she has seen God’s work at play in her life during this time of COVID-19.
I sat down to enjoy a delicious homemade meal, expertly prepared in a tiny kitchenette in the studio apartment where I was staying. My love of cooking stems from a long lineage of good cooks, and it keeps me connected to my farm-girl roots. I was taking some personal retreat days, and I had wandered over to the local farmer’s market to pick up fresh chicken and vegetables. I had endless time to linger over a white wine reduction sauce, as I sautéed garden fresh green beans in an electric skillet. It was a feast for one, prepared with the barest of essential kitchen tools.
With the table set and wine poured, I paused to pray a blessing over my meal. In that brief moment of silence, I could sense God smile and say, “This is so YOU!” as if God knew the immense joy preparing a home cooked meal brought me.
These are the times I am most aware of God’s presence. I know God is at work when I am being most authentically myself and when the values I hold close are at play. Often these moments are accompanied by deep feelings of love, joy, and gratitude.
I have to admit, those moments have been few and far between in recent months. It’s been challenging to find a connection with God, between the fatigue of online meetings and the disruption of my regular Mass routine. I long for extended moments of quiet, to listen for that still small voice of God. Instead, my prayer often emerges when I stare at the evening news and look upwards with exasperation, “God, what are you thinking?!”
It is only natural to ask “Dear God, why?!” during times of great adversity. We want an answer, but instead God answers us with a promise of companionship through the struggle. As God walks with us, we may feel unequipped. But God reminds us that all the things of this world are gifts we have at our disposal – all the things – including a pandemic, working from home, and praying with Mass online.
And if all these things are given to us, so that we can know God, and respond in love, then perhaps the more immediate question is, “God, what do you want from me? How do you want me to respond?” Our God of infinite mercy and compassion sees a world that is hurting and grieving, and God calls each one of us to nourish others with our unique gifts. So when the call came to share my love of food with others in the form of a food pantry, I immediately responded “yes!”.
Earlier this spring, at the onset of the pandemic, when most of the country was in the midst of stay-at-home orders, a Catholic parish in my neighborhood opened a “pop up food pantry” to provide non-perishable food items to anyone in need. They were looking for volunteers, people who were not in the high-risk category, who could help set up social distancing markers in the church parking lot and assist with the distribution of food boxes.
My heart raced at the invitation. I had not left my house in weeks, I didn’t own a mask (but quickly figured out how to sew one myself!), and so much was still unknown about the spread of COVID-19.
Would I be putting myself at risk? What precautions would I need to take? How much of my own health was I willing to risk in order to ensure that those who are hungry will have something to eat?
I stopped to ponder whether this is something I should do. The desire to be of service to others has always been at the heart of my vocation in life. Some of my greatest friendships and life lessons have emerged from volunteer opportunities like this one. The gospel call to “feed the hungry” has been a guidepost for my work in ministry and justice. I could hear God speaking to my heart, “Beth, this is YOU. This is who you are!!”
And I knew it was my turn to respond, “Here I am! Send me!!”
How do moments of deep authenticity and joy help you to know and follow God’s call? How are you using your gifts to serve those most in need?
Photo by Pablo Merchan Montes on unsplash.