The Time That Has Been Given Us
“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But it is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’”
This conversation, from the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, has come to mind more than once in the course of this time we have been given. There is so much about our situation that is out of our control—in truth, everything about our situation is out of our control. But how is that different from our life before covid? We may have entertained certain illusions of control, but alas, the pandemic has an illusion-dissolving effect.
Ours is not to control, but to respond. We can bemoan, like Frodo, that we wish it were not so. But we all know how much good bemoaning does. We have to shift gears from lamenting to discerning, so as to know what to do with the time we have been given.
We could look back with regret if we miss this moment. Our responses will be as varied as the people reading this are varied. God is asking some of us to “lay down our lives for our friends” (John 15 : 13), and doctors, nurses, EMT’s, ambulance drivers, nurses’ aides and assistants are doing that with a heroism that is a moving witness for the rest of us. Some are being called by God to reach out to neighbors, elderly or alone, even neighbors you may not know. I think God is asking us Sisters to find ways to support the families around us in East Harlem in whatever way they need and to find more and new ways to be there for the homeless. Whatever God may be asking of you in this time that we have been given, I guarantee He is not asking you to binge on Netflix, fill yourself with meaningless entertainment; or numb your financial woes with some harmful thing. And He is also not asking you to make an idol out of your health or your physical life. While we are busy fighting off mind-numbing anxiety about our health, is the enemy having a free-for-all with our souls? There is, of course, another will at work in all this, as there always is—our ancient enemy, the Devil. The Adversary is certainly working his spell to cast a mindless slumber over as many of us as he can, making it all the easier for him to devour his sleeping prey. The battle that rages for your soul and for mine is always raging; this is not new news. But don’t let yourself get distracted by this novel situation and get caught off guard.
Gandalf was playing the part of a good spiritual director to Frodo. He wasn’t making any decisions for him or telling him what to do. What Gandalf was telling Frodo was that there was something to be done, and it was up to him to decide to do it.
So it is for us: there is something to be done—something to decide. Brace yourself against merely following the path of least resistance, like water running down a hill. The situation is what it is. What am I, and what are you, going to do with the time that has been given us?
Mother Clare, CFR