In the midst of a pandemic, Carol Bannon contemplates how we answer the question Jesus asked of His apostles.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus asked His apostles, "Who do men say that I am?" I am afraid during the course of this past year many of us would have a hard time describing who we think God is. Is He an angry God, a forgiving God, a healing God; is He our teacher, our friend, our companion?
When I was young, my parents believed the IHM Sisters of Detroit Michigan would not only teach me how to read and write, but how to believe! And they taught me well. I knew, without a doubt God was my Heavenly Father and I was His child. I could ask of Him anything and it would be granted because I had the "secret." Christ Himself told us:
“Amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.” (John 16: 23)
And then my grandmother died. I was eight years old and it happened two weeks before Christmas. Everyone was crying except me because I knew she was only sleeping, just like the little girl in one of our Bible stories. Jesus was told she had died, but He just walked in and woke her up! And so I asked God, in Jesus’ name, just as I had been taught by Sister Veronica, to wake Grandma Mae up from her sleep! Everything returns to normal, my mom stops crying, and Christmas can come.
Every night for the three days before her funeral I prayed “Dear God, in Jesus’ name, please wake Grandma up. Amen!” Walking into the home on her funeral day I was so excited to see her again.
Fifty years later l still remember how it felt to feel as if God ignored me.
As I got older and went away to school I prayed often to God for help. Having graduated high school with only a 2.1 GPA, I needed His intercession to succeed, and I knew Jesus would be there for me. He was my guide, my protector, my Heavenly Teacher who would help me achieve my goals. I depended on Him and in these years I grew to understand and accept what it meant to pray "Your will be done." I received my diploma, graduating summa cum laude and subsequently received an offer to teach at a local Catholic elementary school. It was now my job to teach students about their Heavenly Father.
In fact, one of my favorite lessons was teaching how God answers all of our prayers, but not necessarily in the way we expect. And yes, I always told my class about feeling ignored by God when my grandmother didn’t wake up, sit up in her casket, and surprise everyone.
Marriage and motherhood found me praying to God as my confidante. I could just talk to God, telling Him how I felt at any particular time. I shared my fears as well as all the happy moments as a new mother. More often than not though I shared my frustrations with my husband, the children, the never-ending housework , and the various animals running around. But I never felt it was a one-way conversation. God always heard me, even when no one else in the house was listening to a word I said. He was my best friend.
But, in the midst of this pandemic, when many are too afraid to leave their homes let alone enter a Church to receive the Eucharist, who do I say God is?
I say He is all of the above, and so much more. He is my Heavenly Father, protecting my family, who I know He loves deeply, keeping my compromised husband healthy. He is my Comforter, consoling me after losing parents and sister to death within months of each other; my healer and protector, shielding me from the slings of siblings who in their anger and hurt lash out and accuse me of horrid misdeeds.
He is my Confidante who always listens to my prayers, many times spoken through tears of frustration and fear. Jesus will always be my best friend, ready to tell me when I need to go in another direction, or when to stay the course. And, He is still my greatest Teacher, teaching me through the loneliness of life in today’s masked and socially distanced world how to hear His Voice, His Will for me.
I know God is in charge. He has always been in charge, He will always be the One I turn to for an answer, and He will never let me down.
That is who God is to me.
Who do YOU say God is?
About the Author
Carol Bannon currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband. She is a wife, mother, grandmother to seven, substitute teacher, and an active supporter of the Down Syndrome Society of Rhode Island (DSSRI). Carol is the author of Handshake from Heaven and Our Family’s Christmas Elf. She and her husband love to spend time boating on Cape Cod and traveling to new harbors.