OKONMA: Pandemic provides opportunity to search within, rest in God

August 18, 2020

As a youth at St. Christopher Catholic Church in the southeast side of town, just before Easter, I’d hear Father Paul Chovanec remark, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

At the curiosity of those who would question his seasonal appropriateness, around the time we would be celebrating the death of our Lord, we were all kindly reminded that the gift of salvation is worth celebrating in all seasons, especially at dawn on Easter.

This pandemic has definitely put a damper on a lot of plans, including my diaconate ordination July 10. The easy thing for all of us to say is that “this is a once in a lifetime event,” “we are all in this together,” or “all of us have to sacrifice in one way or another.”

Nonetheless, it has been hard to come with the natural products of such a time; the obscure timeline, multiple changes in plans, and the uncomfortable adjustments that we must be flexible with. There is something to be said about all of this; dare I say that it is a wake-up call.

In the comforts of life here in the United States, we are afforded a life of leisure, certainty and abundance. We take many things for granted. We often see that first-world problems are the source of many sad moments, instead of the common disadvantages that many other countries live through. Therein lies the unfortunate perpetuation of anxiety and worry.

Our Lord Jesus Christ invites us to be still and rest in Him, remembering that nothing in this world is worth our desolation, since we are children of God the Most High. We rest in His arms as a direct response to His love.

Therefore, everything we have and are is a gift from God, including ordination. Ordination is a gift, not an entitlement, regardless of how many evaluations I have successfully finished and recommendations for ordination that I have attained. This is where we depend on God, abandoning our wills to His Most Superior Will.

For me, this idea is of prime importance: Am I ready to respond to the call to Holy Orders in the charity that God has modeled? That readiness must be found in my willing to respond to the love of God and the mission He has for me.

Being that mission is going beyond oneself, allowing ourselves to be used as an instrument, we meet “service.” Service is not about what I can do but being open to be used for the good of the other… none of which requires arrogance, pride, greed, malice, or hatred. Service is a continuance in, and an expression of, Jesus Christ’s love.

Nothing in life is guaranteed. But the most wonderful time of the year is right here and right now, remembering that every moment we are alive is a moment to respond to God’s call to love, no matter the state of life, no matter the crisis, no matter the inconvenience.

It is worthwhile to take a step back, use this opportune time to re-evaluate and move forward in a way that we may shine forth brightly as vessels that manifest God’s glory. 

Deacon Houston Okonma is a seminarian at St. Mary’s Seminary.