Cambridge, UK (Photo: Unsplash/Jean-Luc Benazet)

"Who are You who light this fire in my heart?"

Despite being overwhelmed by the struggle of a million things to do, Maria describes how the period of lockdown has magnified the desires of her heart. “This is certainly not my ability but the fruit of Christ’s presence here and now.”

Since the first lockdown began in March, a fact has been amazing me a lot and - precisely because it is not something mine, but a gift – I wish to share it with you and with the people to whom we have the grace to belong.

Since the lockdown began, I find myself objectively more tired, with less energy, with many more mood swings, and some aspects of my temperament have been exacerbated by the circumstances. Teaching online at university is a struggle. Some colleagues and students have been overwhelmed by mental health problems exacerbated by the pandemic so the administrative and pastoral workload has doubled; I was denied the possibility of travelling for conferences, something I liked a lot; we not longer have friends at home for dinner as we often did; the close living quarters is causing more tension than usual; we cannot go to Italy to visit grandparents and families etc…

I could go on and on with a list of things that we are all finding difficult in this period. All this - from a purely human point of view - would be enough to increase my nihilism and close me even further into my shell.

Instead, I must admit and recognize with great amazement and immense gratitude that this is not happening, quite the contrary! My heart has not ceased to desire, and my desire increases day by day - the desire for love, for true friendship, to embrace the world, for awareness. How is it possible that, within an objective increase of my limit, my heart expands like this? It is certainly not my ability but the fruit of Christ's presence here and now, within this reality that is so beautiful and so not mine. Christ, who reaches me through that ultimate mercy that dominates my relationships with my husband and my children that we do not give ourselves; who reveals Himself through the testimony of friends who indicate the possibility of an otherworldly life in this world; within old and new friendships in which I am reached and loved for all that I am; within witnesses that I have never met in person but who have become dear friends (like Van Thuan, Azurmendi, the cancer-stricken Taiwanese woman who wrote a letter to Traces); Christ who peers into the pain of so many students who confide in me and who, without knowing, are waiting for His embrace.

In the mornings, as I ride my bike to the maths department, I find myself watching the people I pass in the street deeply moved, wondering if they are aware of the destiny of glory that awaits them and how much God loves them now, so much so that sometimes tears roll down my cheeks and people think I am crazy. And I find myself, in a day when I do not even have a moment’s pause between work and children, thinking about the families living the drama of domestic violence, the lonely elderly people locked in old people's homes, the homeless, our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters, those in hospital alone, those who have not met the Lord and do not know what they live for, and my heart burns with emotion, asking the Lord to devote my whole life, to expend it for everyone, to embrace everyone and offer everything for this world that He has created.

Read also - The Mystery exceeds our measures

In short, in a situation where I can barely take care of those close to me, my heart desires to embrace everyone, the whole world, the whole universe. Evidently, His companionship has broken down the limit of what is possible and casts my heart towards the impossible. This infinite horizon makes me look at my finite daily life in a completely new way, restless but pulsating, painful but true. And I ask myself: who are You who light this fire in my heart?

Maria, Cambridge, United Kingdom