By Lara Paniagua, Miami --
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." ... Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world." (1 Peter 1:13)
Everything became so vivid in the past four months, drastically accelerating like a stack of dominoes. One event catalyzed the next, each one intertwined in a web of evil motives with no end in sight. Yet, truth was unveiled and came to surface and revealed where people stand, what they defend, and exposing the great divide.
“In one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, the father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. (Luke 12:53)
A sudden change happened to our world pretty much overnight. Don’t get me wrong, it has been brewing. But it seemed to have come to play together all at once. It affected how we live, our safety, our freedom of expression, our ability to stand up for our values and our Church’s teachings, our right to receive the sacraments — the very source of our physical and spiritual sustenance.
We are being barraged by a non-stop propaganda of division, fear, and isolation from the Lord. We know this is no less than the work of the devil himself. Our God is not a god of division, confusion, nor anger. He is the God of Mercy Who is also just. He gave us the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes to guide us towards a respectful and happy life. He taught is to love our neighbor (Matthew 22: 39). Hence, it is important for us to know the events in worldwide society and where the problems truly stem from… those who are not doing the work of our Lord.
What has impacted me most is society’s reaction. I see radical divisions. I see how some face these times with fear while others have newfound grace to endure current situations. Many people have been called to be on watch and to be in prayer these past months. Some experienced conversion though a bit short of fully understanding God’s grace working within them. While others rushed to churches as soon as the doors opened, driven by zeal for Christ and knowing well the Eucharist can be taken away again.
We must always remember the church is a place of healing. If you want true healing, true immunity, you will always find it at Mass. It is heaven on earth. It is where we receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. If only we can grasp but a grain of such wisdom hidden from the wise but revealed to the little ones (Matthew 11:25), we will suffer no fear when attending Mass where something more potent than medicine is awaits us. What more do we want and really need?
Faith has taken on a new meaning beyond prayers, novenas, rosaries, and fasting. It has been transformed into a necessity to live up to what Christ called us to most especially in a time when stakes are higher and standards seem unattainable. He also infused within our souls the abundance of grace, unworthy though we are. As St. Paul attests:
"For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17)
I just wish people would come to understand this. I, personally, have a great sense of peace, surrendering myself to God daily, giving Him all my anxieties and uncertainties while rendering endless gratitude for everything He has done for us. These moments brought me closer to Him in many ways, all through constant prayer and devotion. God oversees me, so what do I have to worry?
Consecrate yourselves to God and the Virgin Mary daily and you will feel their presence, protection, and guidance no matter what situation you face.
What comes next? Will we endure a stronger virus, more plagues, or perhaps pests? Are we living in the times prophesied in the Book of Revelation? No one knows but the Father (Mark 13:32). Yet we find hints through the messages received by the saints and mystics.
“… before I come as the just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy. Before the day of justice arrives, there will be given to people a sign in the heavens of this sort: All light in the heavens will be extinguished, and there will be great darkness over the whole earth. Then the sign of the cross will be seen in the sky, and from the openings where the hands and the feet of the Savior were nailed will come forth great lights which will light up the earth for a period of time. This will take place shortly before the last day.” (Diary of St. Faustina, #83)
Is our time of Mercy over? Has God given us enough chances? Are we ready to stand up for our faith? Are we ready to consistently say, “Yes” to Jesus? Are able to stand in front of statues of our great saints and defend them? Are we willing to be martyrs for Him? We may not know for certain; however, we know how to react and prepare following the examples of the apostles, the saints, the martyrs, and all holy and women who have passionately surrendered all to God, being on guard, standing firm in faith, being courageous, being strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)
We are constantly being tested in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10). How far are we willing to go for Jesus Who gave us everything to the point death, a death on a cross? Lukewarmness is not an option, neither is fear. For this reason, “Fear not” is mentioned 365 times in the Bible. So, fear not and be a disciple of the Lord. Fear not and stand up for the true Magisterium of the Church.
“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Here, I’d like to share some insights and reflections from friends as they navigate through these times. With these, I pray you find peace and hope.
“This crisis blessed me with insight into myself (my faith, my priorities, and what I am capable of). It confirmed certain perceptions while redefining others. It revealed who the people around me really are, what they hold sacred, and where they truly stand with God and key issues. And as events continue to unfold, it formed new virtues, habits, mindsets, friendships, and simple pleasures that bring real joy... while severing those that proven to be harmful, false, and empty. It affirmed how each day is a new battle and each decision an act of war. While each day brings new mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23), it is really not over until we are called to appear before Him (2 Cor 5) Who alone we ought to fear (Matthew 10:28).” — Flerissa Rico-Viveros, Miami, Florida
“God used the pandemic to bring my life into perspective. I feel my priorities have completely taken a huge turn. I’ve been in quarantine with my kids and my parents over 5 months now and we have been praying the rosary together without skipping one single day. My husband is the only one who leaves the house. We’ve learned to enjoy each other’s company. We have been growing a lot spiritually. We are preparing for what’s coming next. We are leaning to live with less. The adults fast twice a week and my kids are talking about joining us. The anxiety and fear have been replaced for a peace that only comes from knowing Jesus has already defeated dead. Whatever happens next, we are in the right team. Peace be with all of you!” — Marcela Pichardo, Managua, Nicaragua
During the spring semester of 2020 at Saint John Vianney College Seminary, my seminarian brothers and I were asked to remain on campus for a total of eight weeks. At first, nervousness creeped in and many questions began to arise in my mind and heart, “How will I be able to stay here for eight weeks without going anywhere, to see my family and friends, run simple errands, and just take a ride for fun?” However, as time progressed, I was able to see the hand of God in all of my daily interactions with my brothers and the priests who we were journeying with during this unprecedented time. A simple laugh at the dinner table, a walk around the campus with a brother, taking a philosophy class from my room, and most importantly celebrating the Mass and strengthening my prayer life. God was and is always in our midst and we must not take life for granted because it is precious. Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I will be.” He was there and will always be there for us, especially in the most confusing of times. May God Bless You! - Adam Cahill, Miami, Florida
“O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You!”(Diary of St. Faustina, # 84)
Lara Paniagua is a Nicaraguan-American. She completed her studies in Psychology at Carleton University and her graduate research with the Universidad de Leon in Spain. She works in Miami as an education consultant child psychologist. Lara is a practising Roman Catholic actively engaged in her Miami parish.
List by Titles