Last Saturday morning was extraordinarily beautiful – the second day of Spring, in fact. I was asleep in bed and the sun was shining on my face as my cat Neo hopped on my chest to telepathically say, “Feed me!” I shook myself awake and realized it was Saturday of the second weekend of coronavirus quarantine. Normally, I spend part of my Saturday preparing for Sunday liturgy, getting music books ready for our parish instrumentalists and for myself. But there would be no public Sunday liturgy to prepare for because of our governor’s decree of no large gatherings for fear of the spread of COVID-19.
I have pretty much spent the past week home alone with my brother Orlando and my cat who, by the way, was impatient with me as I slowly trudged downstairs to put food into his bowl. I was getting the coffee started when my iPhone went, “Ding!” It was a text message from my sister Teresa in Los Angeles.
Let me explain that most of my family doesn’t hear very well so we don’t speak to each other on the phone. Texting is our preferred method of communication, and this morning my sister sent out a group text to our clan who is scattered across the West Coast from Los Angeles, through Portland, and on up to Seattle – plus one niece in North Carolina.
“Hi, Family. Delfin is in the hospital again . . .”
Delfin is my younger brother, fourth in a family of nine siblings. An artistic soul who paints, makes pottery, plays flute and writes poetry, Delfin has books of original poems published and available on Amazon. Several weeks ago, he was hospitalized for some kidney problems but he seemed to recover well from that. So Teresa’s text surprised me and the details were alarming. Delfin was suffering internal bleeding from an unknown source and had to be rushed to the hospital. While there, he suffered cardiac arrest and now he is intubated and in serious condition.
My sibs and I asked questions and discussed our concerns. The only thing we could do now was wait for the next report as doctors worked to find out the source of the bleeding.
Waiting is probably the most difficult thing to do when a loved one is hospitalized. Everyone has experienced what it’s like in a hospital waiting room, but it becomes even more challenging when the family is scattered around the country as we are. I learned long ago that the best thing to do while waiting is to pray. Thanks to social media, I’m able to ask friends from around the world to join me in prayer.
I put the word out on my Facebook pages and Twitter, and friends there shared my prayer request with their circles. Delfin’s name was enrolled in my parish prayer list, and my choir is also praying. I also mentioned my brother in a worldwide Rosary circle that I pray with. As the morning unfolded, I estimated 800-plus people around the world were praying for my brother. I texted that info to my family. They were amazed and grateful.
Numbers might be impressive but I know it begs a question for some people: What good does prayer do at times like this? Will prayer really influence God and result in a desired outcome? The short answer is simply No. God is not Santa Claus, and we are not naïve but hopeful children sitting on his lap at Macy’s department store. What happens if we don’t get what we pray for? Do we stop believing in God?
It was theologian and philosopher Soren Kierkegaard who gave the world this memorable quote: “Prayer does not change God. Prayer changes us.” His thinking is right on, for if we think that our prayer produces a desired outcome then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Prayer inspires us to accept God’s will, whatever that is and no matter that it might not match our will. Is that defeatist philosophy? If we don’t get what we’re asking for, why pray at all?
I believe the power of prayer lies not in getting what we want but, rather, in assuring us that we are not alone in our ordeal. Whatever the outcome, God’s will be done. And although we might not realize or understand it at the moment, God’s will is infinitely wiser than our ability to see only what is before us. That’s a hard pill to swallow, especially in time of crisis, but I find solace and hope in knowing that I am not alone.
My family’s concerns for our brother lie within the larger world’s coronavirus crisis. What is God’s will in all this? We don’t know. We pray in solidarity that God’s wisdom will eventually be revealed to us. Or, as the villain in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade said to our hero: “It’s time to ask yourself what you believe.”
What do I believe? I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. I believe that God sent Jesus to us with the promise of eternal life. God so loved the world, and it is my faith in that divine love that sustains me and gives me hope – no matter what calamities or crises come my way. God’s will be done.