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Man in Exile

Man in Exile

Regaining Hope from the Book of Daniel in the Time of COVID-19

These are strange times indeed. Looking around the world today one seemingly points to all the ways tumult gains steam. Never did any of us foresee the situation we find ourselves in now. It is a reckoning of sorts and none of us are immune to this virus in one way or the other. The very grind of life, economy, complacency is grinding to a halt, what is man’s response? The answer to these times lies in the Book of Daniel. This exilic prophet presents for each man three calls, the call to repentance, the call to faithfulness, and the call to hope.

Call to Repentance

Daniel is living in the time of exile of the Jews. It is a time of great sorrow, violence, hopelessness with no end in sight. The situation God’s people find themselves in is not simply one of oppression – which is a constant- but one of rupture. Taken from their homes, their country, their way of life these people have lost everything. It is a worst case scenario as land and temple are taken away. For the descendants of Abraham, the very land in which they wandered for so long was a promised land, a holy land. It was a place for their people to live and prosper and most importantly to worship. The temple was where the presence of God dwelled. Priests offered sacrifice on behalf of the people, and each man and woman could count on the presence of God for protection and blessing.

Yet, their fickle hearts led to idolatry, immorality and more. The people turned away from God. Daniel convicts the people of their sin. It is important for us in this time to remember where we have fallen short of God, where we have turned to other “idols”. Daniel speaks to our blindness, the hardness of our hearts which is our inability to truly see God – how often do we hear of Jesus and St. Paul saying the same thing? God’s judgement in the Book of Daniel is not condemnation but it is purgative. We need to awaken our hearts and open our eyes again to the Lord. There is a clear and concrete correlation between how we love God and how we love our neighbor. Both are absolutely needed right now.

Call to Faithfulness

No sign of peace. Stand 3 feet apart. Dispensation from the obligation of Sunday Mass. Suspension of publicly attended Mass. Sinking. Absence. Disbelief. Only a matter of time.

This is what many have felt as the changes to public worship are occurring. In a way we have become like the ancient Israelites. They had no temple, no king, no land – they had once again become wandering people searching once more for home. Our consolation is that we do have a king, we do have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and we do have a holy land after this life, but we would all be kidding ourselves if we believed everything was fine. As picture perfect as many of the livestream Masses were, there was still the hunger for the real presence of the Eucharist. Many rightly and effectively made a spiritual communion, and now many more will do the same. It may be prudent for us to pause at our own plight at this time and think of our brothers and sisters around the World who experience this every week. Can we conceive of a life where Mass is only celebrated monthly if we’re lucky, annually at most in many places? Do we share the devout faith of these disciples?

Daniel himself remains a faithful figure for us. He commits even in exile to remain obedient to the covenant with God. He observes dietary commandments, he connects with God in prayer, and he boldly proclaims the Lord. Might we remain steadfast in this time too. Seek first the kingdom of God and boldly in the solitude of our homes meet the presence of the Lord. Daniel calls out the sinner to repentance to remind them of God’s great mercy, to commit again to our Father and to know that He is in control, that there is hope.

Call to Hope

“One who has hope, lives differently”. These encouraging works from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI should remind all of us that amidst these fears, trials, suffering that this world is not the end. We must act decisively now, justice requires us to care for the common good – but we do not do so out of despair or anxiety. We are given faith and reason – for a reason! For such as a time as this, it is our responsibility to do what we can to help, to pray, to advocate, and to come together (but not together #stayhome). When we are faced with great challenges it takes great sacrifice to make a difference and this is all done in light of the Gospel.

This is the striking message of the Book of Daniel. With no hope in sight he hopes. With land and home gone he speaks of restoration. Upon an empty throne he prophesies the anointed one. Do you have firm hope in Jesus? He wants to heal us as we want to heal those around us. His healing though is greater, his healing restores us to glory with him – if we choose him.

In all man’s searching for God, it is He who seeks us. Oftentimes looking for novel ways to achieve favor with the Lord come crashing down in failure – and maybe they should. For as Daniel indicated, the Father is not looking for empty outward signs, but ones that are an expression of a deep resounding yes in our heart, mind, and soul. Scripture gives us the Word and the words to respond in our relationship with God. Today, the psalmist, aptly gives the world what it needs to say:

Responsorial Psalm 42:2, 3; 43:3, 4

R.    (see 42:3) Athirst is my soul for the living God.

When shall I go and behold the face of God?
As the hind longs for the running waters,
so my soul longs for you, O God.

R.    Athirst is my soul for the living God.

When shall I go and behold the face of God?
Athirst is my soul for God, the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?

R.    Athirst is my soul for the living God.

When shall I go and behold the face of God?
Send forth your light and your fidelity;
they shall lead me on
And bring me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling-place.

R.    Athirst is my soul for the living God.

When shall I go and behold the face of God?
Then will I go in to the altar of God,
the God of my gladness and joy;
Then will I give you thanks upon the harp,
O God, my God!

R.    Athirst is my soul for the living God.

When shall I go and behold the face of God

There is no easy solution to our problems facing the Coronavirus and it will require all of us to do what we can to slow the spread, ease the suffering, and move forward. It does beg us to prepare better, to trust science, and look beyond our own individual survival.

The prophet Daniel appeals to us to prepare for the next life too. So in this time, come back to the Lord, be faithful to Him as He has always been and will be to you, and never tire of the sure hope that is the love of Christ.

Your home should be a model of the Church.
Here are some ways to make it happen.

Daily Structured Prayer

Awake – Morning Offering
Noon – Angelus
3:00pm – Divine Mercy Chaplet
7:00pm – Rosary 
Bed – Examen

Meditate on the readings of the day, especially on the Gospel, and make a spiritual communion to grow on your desire for Jesus in your life.

It’s still Lent! In what ways can you offer these present sufferings for the eternal glory of being with Christ forever? How can you ask Jesus to use your difficulty for the good of another; namely those who have died, are dying, sick, grieving, and all those caring for their fellow man as great risk.

Take care of your fellow neighbor. While it’s important to minimize contact with others to flatten the curve of the spread of COVID, it doesn’t mean you remove yourself entirely from meeting the needs of others. A few ideas:

  • Call and check in on a loved one. Especially those who are in senior living or nursing homes and cannot have visitors.
  • Make sure you are enrolled in online giving for your parish and other charitable organizations. Those in need really need us now too.
  • Spare a roll.
  • Use technology! A screen is not the same as in person, but we can still have a family meal, play a board game, or bible study “together”.
  • Research what your local food pantries need most and the best way to get food to them. Follow local directives for community outreach.

Immerse in the Beautiful

Create a prayer corner or shelf in your house. Make it a focal point where you can go each day to pray. Items that are helpful: Crucifix, icons, Bible, rosary, devotional, prie dieu (kneeler), chair, etc.
Dive into a great book, write, play music, make the best lego tower ever!

Be grateful. Be empathetic. Be mindful.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and plenty of you are doing ingenious, inspiring, and helpful projects for your faith and your community. Share them! No man is an island, we must be in this with and for each other.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Joe is the Coordinator of Faith Programs for the Office of Youth Ministry. After earning a degree in Theology from Benedictine College, Joe served as a FOCUS missionary and youth minister. He enjoys spending time with his wife and four sons, Cardinal baseball, and finding great books at thrift stores.

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