Not too long ago I heard a song that contained the phrase; “we are all only one phone call away from our knees.” When I heard these words I thought “how true.” I reflected on how fragile our lives are. I also realized that for the most part, we go through life day after day not giving much thought that at any given moment things could change.
As a priest and a therapist, I am all too aware of the struggles and tragedies of life. I see them first hand, hear about them on nearly a daily basis, and often experience them vicariously through the pain and suffering of others. I’ve sat with and bore witness to people who have received that one phone call. I’ve prayed with family members as they watched their loved one take their last breath. I’ve presided over funerals for infants, young children and teens and I can honestly say, every time I was exceedingly humbled at how fragile our lives are.
I’ve thought a lot about our world and our lives since 9/11. I look at the military actions of our country and that of other nations, and the tremendous loss of life that has occurred as a result. There are many studies that give various statistics, but from what I can gather, it might be safe to say a rough estimate of the casualties of war, for both Americans as well as those of other nations (military and civilians), is between a half to three-quarters a million people since that time of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York.
While I don’t believe that most people go around thinking about potential tragedies, and all the “what if’s”, because such thoughts aren’t pleasant, I do believe it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to escape the frightening events that we are witnessing around the world.
As I write these words, I also call to mind the period of time we are in liturgically, the Nativity Fast, preparing for the coming of God in the flesh. In the hymns and readings of the Church, we are reminded of the coming of Light into a darkened world. The spirit of the Church is full of hope, joy, eager anticipation, and triumph.
Despite the reality of darkness in our world today, we stand with a firm hope in the coming of the Christ, the Anointed One who comes to bring joy and good tidings to all. Even in the midst of all the violence around the globe, we hold onto the Truth who is Christ, the message of Salvation and Eternal Life, and we shout in hymns, “Christ is born, glorify Him! Christ is come from heaven; go and meet Him. Christ is on earth; arise to Him. Sing to the Lord, all you who dwell on the earth; and in merry spirits, O you peoples, praise His birth. For He is glorified” (Katavasia of Christmas, Ode 1).
Though it is true that we live in a fragile world, a fallen world, we ought not live in fear. The beloved Saints of our faith never feared suffering or death because their hope was in Christ. What kept them firmly planted in the faith was the reality that Christ has overcome the world, conquered death, and offers eternal life, and so it must be with all of us. No matter what we see, hear or experience in this life, we direct our eyes toward the Kingdom of Heaven, and put our trust in God.
If anything, we ought to allow the reality of this fleeting world to deepen our appreciation for life as a whole, giving thanks to God for all that He has given us, and strive for deeper and more meaningful relationships with God and others. From Holy Scripture we know that the world is passing away. It was never meant to be forever in her fallen state. Yes the world we live in is indeed fragile, and we are reminded of this every day.
Our lives are likewise very fragile, and we bear witness to this through illnesses, war, hunger, and all manner of suffering. It’s not a bad thing to let this reality sit before our minds eye from time to time. It can be very sobering for us, and a motivating factor to draw closer to God and to deepen our appreciation and increase our thanksgiving toward our Father in heaven. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that “we are all only one phone call away from our knees.”
As we approach the celebration of the Nativity of Christ and His sanctifying Baptism, let us give profound thanks to God for sending us His only-begotten Son and all of what that means to us. “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned” (Mt. 4:16).
With love in Christ,