Distracted from distraction by distraction

Most Reverend Gerard Bergie, D.D.

Most Reverend Gerard Bergie, D.D.

T.S. Elliot, the great poet and playwright, wrote in his poem “Burnt Norton” that we are “distracted from distraction by distraction.” Although written more than 80 years ago, these words seem an apt description of what we are experiencing at this present moment. Right now COVID-19 is a huge distraction in our lives.

In the Gospel of Matthew we find an account of the disciples alone in a boat on the Sea of Galilee during a storm. Jesus came to them walking on the water and said to them, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid” (Mt.14:27).  And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Mt.14:28). Jesus called to him and Peter got out of the boat and started walking toward the Lord. The scripture tells us that, “when he noticed the strong wind,  he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased (Mt.14:30-32).

Peter began to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus. He allowed himself to become distracted by the storm. As a result, even though Jesus was still with him, he was not with the Lord. His trust was replaced by fear.

Right now we are in a storm and Jesus is saying to us “take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Why should we not fear?

We are rapidly approaching the feast that commemorates the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. There is no question that our Christmas celebrations will be very different this year. Since extended families and friends will not be able to gather, many traditions will need to be altered. This can be very troubling.

The good news is that COVID-19 cannot stop Christmas! We should not allow fear and anxiety to rob us of the joy and peace that we celebrate on this feast.

This Christmas, if our temporal activities are significantly restricted, perhaps we can reflect more on the spiritual dimension of this celebration. Let us focus on Christ and listen to what he has to say to us in the midst of the storm. Let us focus on love which dispels all fear.

In 1 John we read, “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

So often at Christmas we focus on our love for others as we spend time buying, doing and socializing. Perhaps this year we can consider God’s profound and life-changing love. It would be an incredible grace if this Christmas we experienced a deeper appreciation of God’s unconditional love for each one of us.

Mary played a significant role at Christmas as she gave birth to our Saviour. In the depictions of the nativity, Mary is always shown looking lovingly at her new-born son. She too will help us to keep our eyes on him and to know his love.

The storms will continue, even during Christmas; however, we should not allow ourselves to be ‘distracted from distraction by distraction.’ Keep your focus on Jesus who tells us to “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Most Reverend Gerard Bergie, D.D.

Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Catharines

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