| By Dr. Mike Martocchio

Living the Gospel Journey

In my previous article, we talked about changes brought on by the pandemic and how our relationships with God changed or grew in response. We also considered how we will change and adapt sharing the Gospel going forward.

Now let’s take a look at some new challenges and questions that face us as people in general, but also as Christians with a particular mission:

Re-examining priorities

Shutting down societal interaction, to greater or lesser degrees, forced us all to take a step back. In our society, we tend to think that a busy life is a fulfilled life. The drive for constant new experiences costs us the opportunity to reflect upon those experiences. We can talk about how a wealth of activities can lead to a poverty of spirit, but now we have had an opportunity to take a sabbath from our hobbies and activities. The question is whether we really missed those things.

Furthermore, by stripping away some of our excess, do we more clearly see what is important? I have heard so many stories on the rediscovery of the family. We refer to the family as the domestic Church because it is the smallest and most basic unit of the Church and is the primary place where the Gospel is first heard and passed down. The family also evangelizes this Gospel message and shines that light to the whole world.

Many of us have come to realize that time together as a family benefits the family and everyone else we encounter both as individuals and families. By having this experience of increased time together, many of us have come to realize that the family is not the thing we need to get away from to do God’s work, but rather, it is the place where that work takes place and the people with whom we accomplish our mission.

Re-envisioning, but also rediscovering human interaction

We have long lived lives suffused with technology and media, but the pandemic forced us to double down on this and, at times, to interact with others almost exclusively through social media. This, paradoxically, led to feelings of loneliness and isolation, and also greater connectedness and belonging. The challenge is to find fuller integration and balance between our “digital” lives and the bodily world.

Our faith is no stranger to this kind of balance. Some of the earliest controversies in Church history were resolved by balancing our spiritual and material selves. Our response as Christians has been to recognize that human beings are spirit and body — both are created good and are elevated by Christ in the redemptive act of God becoming human for our salvation (the Incarnation). If we accept the wisdom of our ancestors, we will find that the best solution is truly incarnational and genuinely seeks greater consistency and integration. The discernment that lies ahead is to figure out what new forms of balance lie in the future.

In terms of consistency and integration, there are two sets of questions to consider. First is finding balance between the virtual and “real” life. A human being cannot find fulfillment in the virtual world alone. We need to put our thoughts and dreams into action. To put it succinctly, the loss of interpersonal interaction gave us a renewed appreciation for it.

Putting it all back together: Renewal

In Isaiah’s Gospel, we see that God is doing something new amid the promised return from exile — so, too, should we think of our transition to the “new normal” not as resumption but as renewal. As we re-assemble our lives and re-integrate everything God places before us, let us realize that we can successfully understand what God is doing now only if we understand what God has been doing throughout recent events. After all, the common theme running through this unique time is that of rediscovery and return. So, before we “return” to whatever we think normal is, let us take a moment to prayerfully consider what the past year has allowed us to reconsider and rediscover and how this can feed our faith as we move forward.

Let us use this experience as a way to renew our commitment to the Lord and our mission to proclaim the Gospel as we walk forward — to not only see but also to take part in the new things that God is doing.

Michael Martocchio, Ph.D., is the diocesan secretary for evangelization and director of the Office of Catechesis and Christian Initiation. Email him at mmartocchio@charlestondiocese.org.