Thank God for April Showers, Snow and Ice
By Bishop John Abdalah, Diocese of Worcester and New England
April showers bring May flowers, and our Lenten efforts bring Paschal celebrations, but what about April snow and ice? What kind of Pascha comes from those kinds of intense surprises? I suppose it depends on a number of things. April snow and ice may be likened to all those events in life that we don’t like and don’t want. We may see no possible good coming from them, and no joy or benefit from enduring them. They may be temptations that arise from sickness, or unhappy people in our lives, or perenially dissatisfied folks who chair church committees, or judgmental dogooders with weak boundaries, invading our personal space and butting into our business.
What do you do with such things? John Dalack and his daughter, Khouria Leila Ellias, told a group of New England retreat-goers in Norwood last month that you thank God for it. All of it! This concept of thanking God for everything that we endure is sewn within the rich fabric of our Orthodox Christian heritage. God loves us and we can use all of April’s snow and ice to prepare us for Pascha. I heard a young man thank God for the cancer that claimed his mother’s life, for cancer was the instrument of her “translation” into heaven. As a pastor, I saw many mothers deliver their children to God as their children’s suffering ended, along with their lives; they thanked God for accomplishing everything that we need to be rejoined with our loved ones in Him. I have seen people lose jobs and get better or healthier ones. I have seen others repeatedly knocked down, and have myself been knocked down, only to get up stronger and wiser each time.
Lent is an opportunity to reflect on our lives and be more deliberate about how we think and how we live. The best way to be and live is in a state of thanksgiving. Thank God for everything that happens. God will use them for good. Thank God for everyone in your life, especially those who annoy you, as they will help you detach from your pride and selfish thinking. Thank God for His forgiveness, and you will be able to free yourself from your resentments by forgiving others. Thank God for your losses, because in God there are no losses; every relationship endures and is perfected in Him.
Lent is an opportunity to worship. Worshipping allows us to relate to God in the only reasonable and acceptable way. Without worship, we make no room for God, and the void is filled with ourselves and sin. Worship allows us to kneel before God who loves us and lifts us up in a loving embrace. This can’t happen without worship, because without worship we are not in a right posture for a relationship with God. Our relationship is with God. Man’s relationship with God includes man worshiping God. Some may taunt you and accuse you of hypocrisy when you worship. Thank them for this and use it to grow.
Lent is an opportunity to serve others with thanksgiving and, in serving the poor, we are able to see, know and serve God. We share with God in His mercy and experience His love as we participate in His love for the poor ones. Making time when we don’t have time, and sometimes being mocked or slandered for it, allow us to turn such snow and ice into a Pascha that develops and prepares us for our liturgical Pascha.