"The angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David." (Luke 1:30-32, NRSV)
God is always at work in the world, wooing us into awareness of his presence and then inviting us into an ever-deepening relationship with him. God's interactions with us don't stop there because God also invites us to join with him in connecting others to him and with ourselves. Our God is relational. Even the way we conceive of God as Trinity testifies that God exists in the community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In creating us, God is sharing with us the delight God experiences in that community and inviting us into the Divine Communion to delight in him/them as well.
In this unusual year, the usual invitations have gone largely unsent. Although some wedding ceremonies took place, many more were put off until next year. Invitations to dinners at friends' houses, to birthday parties, to summer cookouts, were few and far between. We scaled back the holiday family gatherings like Easter, Thanksgiving, and now, Christmas. At one of the most heart-breaking times in a person's life, even funeral announcements now include a statement that most of the services are only for the immediate family or will take place sometime next year. Many of us are awaiting "our turn" for an invitation to get a vaccination for COVID-19.
Amid all the unsent invitations, God's invitations have not stopped. Just as God invited Mary to impact human history by bearing the Savior of the world, God invites us to become a part of his grand mission to bring about his kingdom here on earth. God was not surprised by this pandemic, and God is not constrained in any way by this disease. Because God has chosen to work through us, his church, the only way God is limited is to the degree to which we are willing to be used by him in the current situation. Even so, if God finds us unwilling, God will find someone who will respond faithfully.
While I believe that God is not responsible for this pandemic, I am confident that God can redeem the suffering and anxiety it has caused. The challenge for us is to look for where God is already working and join in with a helping hand. If we're having trouble discerning the needs to address, God is more than willing to direct us in fulfilling his will. Here are a series of questions we can use to help us determine what God might be calling us to do:
Does it point us to the greatness and goodness of God?
Does it foster an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus Christ?
Does it bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit? (i.e., love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control)
Does it draw us into deeper relationships with one another and increase our empathy for others?
Does it have a positive impact on all those affected, and not just on a few?
We can ask other discerning questions; however, my point is that God is calling us to make this world a better place for all amid our current reality. We can ignore God's call or, like Mary, we can say, "yes."