Focus on the Eternal

I am grieving.

Eight days ago, our governor extended online distance learning for the rest of the school year, so I am grieving for all of my teens who were clinging on to the hope that they would return to school this year. Yesterday, my parish was supposed to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation, so I am grieving for my 8th graders who have worked so hard to prepare for the sacrament and had yet another event in their 8th-grade year canceled or postponed. Today, I was supposed to be on a flight to visit one of my dear college friends, so I am grieving my lost vacation.

I am grieving bigger losses, too – the loss of human contact, like simply being able to hug my family and friends. I am grieving in-person, face-to-face connection, which has been relegated to screens for the time being. And I am still grieving the loss of my grandmother, who passed away 38 long days ago in the midst of this pandemic.

It is good, natural even, to grieve these things. But, you see, the things that I am grieving are all temporal. They’re all of this crazy, twisted world we’re living in right now. Yes, we are of this world, but we were made for something more, something deeper.

Jesus gives us this reminder in today’s Gospel. The crowd asks Jesus for a sign, reminding Him their ancestors wandering in the desert were given manna to eat. Jesus proceeds to explain the sign, saying that it was the Father who provided the bread from heaven, not Moses, but the crowd just continues to focus on the physical aspect of food. They think that Jesus will make it rain with sourdough (too soon?), and then they will physically live forever.

The crowd couldn’t move past the temporal that they were thinking about to the eternal that Jesus was talking about. With the food that He will give, the Bread of Life, we will always be satisfied. When we consume that spiritual food that is the Eucharist, we become united with Jesus – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – in anticipation of the union that we will enjoy with the Father in heaven one day.

We were made for this union. We were created by a God who placed deeper desires on our hearts than being able to attend school or to hug my parents. We long for Him and the happiness that only He can provide.

Instead of grieving a postponed Confirmation, I will pray for a deeper longing for the Holy Spirit in the candidates’ hearts. Instead of grieving my lost beach vacation, I will seek rest in the Lord, who desires to flood my heart and my soul with peace and comfort. And I will remind myself that my grandma now enjoys the hope of the Resurrection and that we will reunite in heaven again someday instead of focusing too much on my grief.

In light of today’s Gospel, I would encourage you all to identify what you have lost and are grieving due to this COVID-19 crisis. Ask the Lord to help you put those things in perspective, to see the eternal past the temporal, and remember that He gives us the greatest, most perfect things that our hearts desire and fills those things Himself.

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Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. Following graduation, she began volunteering in youth ministry at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Her first “big girl” job was in collegiate sports information where, after a busy two years in the profession on top of serving the youth, she took a leap of faith and followed the Lord’s call to full-time youth ministry at St. Peter Church. She still uses her communication arts degree as a freelance writer and statistician, though. You can catch her on old episodes of the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.