“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 that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”J.R.R. Tolkien – The Fellowship of The Ring
As I consider the sadness and struggles of this pandemic time, I can identify with Frodo’s sentiment. Three months ago, I truly couldn’t have fathomed a world where friends didn’t gather, people couldn’t go in to work, children didn’t attend school in person, and families stayed home… where shops, restaurants, and theaters were dark… where hugs had to become air hugs from 6 feet apart. The tragic reality of illness has shaken the social and emotional fabric at the core of humanity.
As much as I identify with Frodo, I find equal inspiration and encouragement in Gandalf’s response. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us (Tolkien). We have received everything from an all-powerful, loving, and merciful Creator. Everything we have and everything we are has been bestowed on us by God. Our very creation is a gift from Him that we have received. So also, we have received from Him our identity and our mission. Our identity in Him, our relationship with our Heavenly Father is the core from which all else flows. And He has created you and me for a purpose, for a mission. We don’t get to choose the time in which we live, but we can choose to receive our mission from God, the one who chose to create us in this specific earthly time and place. Frodo may not have initially loved receiving the mission he was given, but he chose to receive it. He chose to move forward each and every day of the adventure, saying yes to the mission he was given.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ words echo a similar sentiment:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
God has created each of us in this specific time for a specific purpose and mission. It seems He is giving us an opportunity to mature in our faith… Jesus associates maturity with greater surrender and selflessness, a disposition of being led rather than leading oneself. The Gospel tells us Jesus says this signifying His death and how it will glorify God. It is not a sin to be upset, hesitant, or genuinely wish God had not put us where we are. We also know we are limited in our humanity. We cannot see the bigger picture. And Jesus, the Son of God, received the greatest mission of all. His receptivity and acceptance of his mission restored all of creation to its Creator.
We all have a part to play in the story of salvation. Our piece of the puzzle is here and now. We can partake in the ongoing movement of humanity toward God. We may wish that a pandemic “need not have happened” in our time. But we know who our God is. We know He is good. We know He gave His only Son for our salvation, and we know that by Christ’s death, suffering has become redemptive.
So knowing these truths, we must ask God for the grace to be grateful that we are living in such a time as this. For we know He has created each of us and gifted us life in this time for a purpose and for an ultimate good. We must decide “what to do with the time that is given us.”
Christ’s words from the Gospel that I mentioned above were to signify “by what kind of death he would glorify God.” Christ willingly received His mission from the Father out of a heart of love. So too, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us receive our mission and decide what to do with the time given us by God from a posture of love for our good Father. From where we stand, it may not look appealing, comfortable, safe or sane, but when the Father calls us out of the boat He is our security and He will not forsake us. The Gospel passage concludes: “And when he had said this, he said to him, ‘Follow me.'”
Let us decide what to do with the time we are given. Let us follow Him.