By Judith Costello
Three events of the week; three related lessons. What do a Methodist pastor, a music concert and the Vietnamese New Year have in common? Well, for me, some lessons from all of these are about stepping into the darkness because of faith!
Recently, I went to hear a Methodist minister who has become a Catholic. He surely did step into darkness when he gave up half of his family’s income, along with the vocation of preaching that he loved, to follow God’s call to come home to the church of the apostles. More than that story, Keith Nester spoke about Lent as a time of preparation.
He said, “Most of the time when people have a great year they think, ‘I don’t need God. I did this on my own.’ But then they have a bad year and they cry out to God, ‘Where were you when I needed you?’” Nester said that Lent is preparing for the good or the bad years that are to come. “And the good news is that the preparation for both is the same.” We prepare ourselves by using self-discipline, to rein in the temptations of the world, and by prayer. As a result, we have a growing sense that God is with us in good times and in bad. The ups and downs aren’t as traumatic or as disturbing to the faith journey after Lenten preparation.
Nester has gone through the good and the bad all in a short amount of time since he came into communion with the Catholic Church just a few short months ago. He doesn’t know what’s ahead. Yet, he spoke eloquently without thought for the future!
The next night, I went with several others to a Christian music concert. I am in my 60s and have never been to a rocking, blinking lightshow concert! It was too loud at times for my old ears. And it seems like the Christian artists are too much into copying the ways of worldly music. But these people have passion and the messages of many songs are so uplifting. I talked to one friend who said the song “In the Eye of the Storm” by Ryan Stevenson hits her every time she hears it. The song tells a bit of her journey … “When a child dies and there’s nothing I can do.… You (God) alone are the anchor when my sails are torn.…”
Stevenson said he worked as a paramedic before launching his music career and he’s seen all kinds of brokenness. Yet, hope exists because Jesus is there to comfort us. God doesn’t fix some of the hard stuff, but he comes with a gift. He offers peace that only he can give. It is a peace that doesn’t make sense and yet it says, This, too — this hurt, the pain and uncertainty — will lessen and at the end of time there will be glory and wonder beyond our imaginations.
On Sunday, Feb 25, the local Vietnamese community celebrated their traditional lunar New Year. I went to support some of the children I know from my work as an aide at All Saints Catholic School in Davenport.
Here is a small but vibrant Vietnamese community, trying to hold on to tradition. Some came as refugees. Others followed to join family members and seek opportunities. I met a young seminarian who has come for formation and to study English. Some of the older people’s faces show signs of struggle. This America can be overwhelming. And the children begin to lose interest in old traditions. Yet, they came together at Sacred Heart to laugh at the dragons and celebrate beautiful songs and dances. Although I did not understand the words, I could feel the joy and hope.
We trust in Jesus and walk forward, even when the way is dark. In doing so, the light within begins to shine, not only for us but for others, too.
God bless our Lenten walk.
(Judith Costello, OCDS, is a freelance writer who lives in Davenport.)