By Sister Martha Buser, OSU

Here we are, almost through Lent, and many of us are still asking ourselves or others, “What can I do for Lent? What can I give up? Should I give up candy? Watching TV? What other thing can I give up that would be a penance for me?” I realized that this year, due to the pandemic, we don’t have anything we can give up that we haven’t already given up. As I’ve gotten older, I have learned to ask a different question. I know that I have to ask it reverently, seriously. I have to ask, “So what?” So what if I can’t go out to eat with my friends. So what if I haven’t seen my family in over a year. So what if I can’t go to Mass every day in person. The words, “So what?” have always pushed me back, saying to myself, “What can I do?” and, “What does my freewill tell me that I really am able to do at this point with love?”

So here I am, faced with not being able to see my family. When I say to myself “So what?” then I am forced to pray about my family and how I can love them more. To understand that they can’t see me either. That their children are growing up without the older people in their families. I think about the families that are missing members. A father, a mother, a brother, a sister has died because of COVID. What choices are around that? So what? So what that they have lost a loved one? What can they do? There are choices that we have, no matter how bad or how hard things are. We always have choices.

We can always answer the question, “So what?” So what do I really want here in my own heart when I think of my family? I pray for them in a way I’ve never known before —that they stay well, that they love one another and that they really look at each other. I love the way it is to watch the newborns become three months old, six months old, and then stand up and walk. So, to be here and now and ask, “So what?” I can be in the here and now and find God’s love there. How blessed we are to be people of faith. Because if we have no sense of a God who loves us, then we are really left with despair.

A friend of mine who was a scripture scholar once said, “Always ask God in the burning bush: ‘Who are you? What is your name, so I can tell the other people want you want.’ And God said to Moses, ‘Tell the people I am the One that has always loved you.’” What a word. We don’t translate it that way so often. But this is a real translation: “I am the One who loves you.”

So I can say when I look at those places in my life where I feel like I have lost something or someone, the One who loves me is with me here. I am the One who is always with you. Then I can say, “What do you want me to do in this situation? If am in this situation what are you asking me to do? What do you want me to be? How can I be the way I really want to be?” Then I say to myself, “Well, I really want to be a loving person. How can I be a loving person when I can’t even get to the people I love?” Well, there are some ways to get to them that aren’t completely satisfactory. I could talk to them on the phone. I could Facetime with them. I could Zoom with them. That is not totally satisfactory, but I can pray for them. Not pray for them that they get well or they don’t have pain, but I can pray for them as they are, as I am and as they are. That’s where God is. I am where you are. God has always said, “I am always with you. I am the One who loves you.” My faith can help me there—because I have faith, I can be joyous during this painful time.

So what will I do with my fear? How can I use it to be alive? As I get older, that becomes a very important question. I can’t see as well as I used to. I can’t hear as well as I used to. But the question always is, “So what?” What can I do about my seeing? What do I want to see? Do I want to see God’s face? Do I want to see and to know and to love God where I am in the shadows and images that may come? Because where I am, that’s where God is.