On my way back to Malaysia, I was reading a book by Charles Bukowski titled “You get alone at times that it just makes sense”. In one of the pages, he wrote, “There is a place in the heart that will never be filled, a space and even during the best moments and the greatest times, we will know it, we will know it more than ever. There is a place in the heart that will never be filled, and we will wait and wait in that space.” In this line of thought, I was made to think of life.
Many a time, after so much that has happened, after so much that we have done, there is a place in the heart that will never be filled, a space and even during the best moments and the greatest times. This place in the heart feels bigger in the darkest and worst moments of our life. And so, we wait and wait; leading to endless restlessness. We are waiting for something to happen; we are waiting for someone to fill that space. We listen and listen again, but not understand, see and see again, but not perceive. We do and we make; we look and we see but there is still a place in the heart that will never be filled.
But if we just wait. If we just be patient. If we just surrender but not give up. We will see our King coming in the most unexpected and beautiful way. And when He comes, he says to us, “Come to me all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
What St Paul says in his letter to the Romans is crystal clear. We are not in the flesh, but we are in the spirit. If we make believe that we are only the flesh, then that space will not be filled but become bigger and bigger, engulfing us in our entirety. But if we believe that we are spirit, then it is God who will fill in the space that haunts us. It is not easy, yet it is not impossible because with God nothing is impossible. To make a thing true, all you have to do is to believe.
During this pandemic, life has not been easy. We see and hear people falling sick and dying everywhere. We are scared of touching anything and we are even more wary of anyone we speak to. There is no exception for priests as well.
Life in Rome as a student priest had not been a bed of roses. Apart from the burdens and frustrations of studies, the sudden implementation of the quarantine threw everyone in the loop.
Quarantined with nearly 200 other student priests, each one was wary of each other especially in the first two weeks of quarantine. In one day, one could mingle freely and then in another, everyone was forced to be apart from one another. Distancing myself from others made me feel miserable and guilty at the same time. On the one hand it seemed that I was not trusted by others, and on the other it seemed that I did not trust others as well. On my part, I could not help but feel ostracized from the community. The irony is that I was also doing to others what others were doing to me.
As impossible as the current situation may be, we must not lose hope. Though we are apart from each other, we are still a part of each other’s life. By distancing ourselves, we show that we care for each other’s well-being. In a way we are forced to be apart from each other, but we are still a part of each other because we care for other’s well-being.
In this challenging time of our lives, we must not give up. Rather, we must surrender our lives to God because He has promised that he will give us rest. This means that He will take our worries away. God will never leave us alone. Hope is present in each of us. We might feel alone in isolation, but this is where God fills our emptiness. It is an opportunity to experience the presence of God. As the Italians always say – Andra tutto bene (Everything will be okay).
(Fr Rhobby is currently a student priest in Rome, and is in the third year of his Sacred Scripture Course. He was locked down together with about 200 student priests in Rome during the pandemic.)