What we don’t want to acknowledge, at times, is that threat feels like it is everywhere these days. We’re noticing mortality’s vapor drifting near us and the ones we love. We’re tempted to distract ourselves, sometimes with noble projects, other times with whatever is available.
Awareness of mortality can arouse the better angels of our nature and, just as easily, our demons. By whatever name we call it, grace is needed so that we may respond as strong, loving and wise people.
How might we access this grace? By pausing, by asking for it, by being intentionally still so that we an recognize it when it comes – likely from an unexpected source at an unexpected time.
During our nation’s darkest moments, Lincoln did not become frenetic. He would go off and ponder, seeking light from a source he had difficulty comprehending.
Ignatius told his followers that the indispensable practice in any moment is the twice daily pause to notice the presence of God in one’s life (the Examen). Romero never stopped calling upon his beleaguered people to continue studying, praying and seeking divine guidance so that they would not lose their humanity as they faced a lethal menace.
And when mortality hovered over his friend Lazarus, Jesus does not reflexively act but rather, paused – presumably to seek guidance from the One he called Father.
May we all take time to request divine guidance and may we each be given the light to recognize God’s response, in whatever form that takes. For as Dorothy Day said as she faced a crush of hungry, desperate people, “we never know when we may be entertaining angels.”