The Next New Normal
It evidently can be difficult to write a worthwhile reflection at the moment, given the events that have transpired in our country, especially over the last couple of days.
Hearts weigh heavy, casualties of deeply shaken trust, or remnants of trust, in the institutions, structures, and procedures within our government, things relied upon for stability and order. We know things stood on quite shaky ground to begin with, as the edifice has been under coordinated assault for decades. Freedoms have been slowly surrendered over the years in efforts to adjust to the changing normal, trying to maintain the feel of normals past.
In many ways, there’s nothing to blame in that, as we like continuity and stability in our lives, especially when there is a great deal of responsibility on our shoulders, like with raising a family.
But last year saw something different: an accelerated upset of the flow of life in just about every aspect.
Between a response to a virus that crippled the private sector in varying degrees, civil unrest, and a contested election, it began to set in that things were not returning to any previously known normal, no matter how much we may have wanted or hoped for. While remembering that we should not place our hope in princes and that nations will pass, that may have been an inconvenient truth.
And so this indeed may have shaken the faith in God for many; why did He not do something?
For those who are more steadfast, we ponder with some amount of apprehension as to what He may be asking.
Forces of evil are clearly at work, likely more emboldened now, and we search within as to how strong of a conviction we have for the truths of our Holy Faith against an increased external threat; what are we willing to lose or will these slowly fall victim to maintain a normal?
How will the institutional Church respond?
There are lots of questions as to what may be imposed on or expected of the citizens and non-citizens of State Almighty, and we know how likely such may be opposed to the expectations of God Almighty.
But we cannot carry tomorrow’s crosses with today’s graces, and inordinate speculation and conjecture just leads to anxiety that quickly gains a life of its own. So we have to find solace in the fact that God does not leave us orphans amidst changing normals. It is the one and only constant we have from which everything else we believe must flow.
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away (Mk. 15:31)
That is because God and normal tend not to be synonymous. That can seem strange to say because we equate normalcy with some semblance of happiness that seems to convey God’s blessing. Although God is always the first Promoter of order and stability, normalcy for Him is about whatever best orders us to life with Him.
That can be messy, if the Cross is any indication.
It is because things have never been “normal” after the Fall. Sin messed up God’s perfect economy of creation. While the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Law put humanity back on a trajectory to regain God’s normalcy, the Incarnation stood to be the most abnormal event in the history of the world in order to complete it.
It is providential that the events we are experiencing in our country this week have occurred during Epiphany.
The Magi are really the first to have their version of normal challenged, and it is a lesson for us all in these times. Strong faith unites us to God, gives sense to suffering, and meaning amidst confusion. The Magi had that. These foreign kings had to discern their King and Lord as a swaddled Infant in a stable.
Nothing about this is normal to our human sensibilities. Christ’s manifestation challenged everything that their previous life, tastes, and customs would have come to expect of such a royal Birth.
Looking for grandeur, they were met with poverty, yet they still recognized the true God He is.
As a spiritual writer puts it:
They were not baffled by the unexpected disguise, by His humility of circumstance, nor by the defiance of all earthly prejudices and standards of valuation. Their purity of heart, their sincerity of mind, their love of truth and reality (no matter how much truth might conflict with their own views and feelings) and finally their great humility were what made them receptive of the gift of the wonderful faith given them by God.
For those reasons, they bent their knees in devout adoration of the Christ Child, these three prototypes of Eucharistic adorers. And though a warning not to return to Herod prompted them to return to their homeland by another route, they could never have returned the same way in their hearts having encountered Christ as they did.
Behold a new normal for them that would govern how they approached all circumstances for the rest of their lives.
And so with us. Do we not encounter this same predicament every time we genuflect and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament? Is what we profess in our churches any different from the Magi?
Our star just happens to be the sanctuary lamp. Behold I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world (Mt. 28:20).
Christ is our Savior.
No president is, but they each contribute to circumstances through which we must work out our salvation. Albeit quite challenging and alarming, we are being given another route to follow now by God that is designed to bring us closer to Him, with the same faith we have had, yet with the expectation that it is used to courageously sort through whatever may lay ahead. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof, says our Lord (Mt. 6:34).
Normals in this life come and go it seems. No matter what happens, keep the eye and heart on the unending normal eternal life offers in reward for steadfast belief in the abnormal way God chose to save us, and govern life based on that.
It’s the stuff that saints are made of. Just like the Magi.
January 8, 2021