Lift Jesus Higher – especially during a pandemic

Emilie Callan

March 20, 2020
Salt + Light Media was present at this year's Lift Jesus Higher Rally. Watch the video above to get a taste of what it was like to be there, and read Emilie Callan's reflection on how the lessons she learned at the rally are proving to be valuable now as we face our daily fears about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No other part in history has ever had to digest all the bad news in the world before breakfast!”
Fr. James Mallon, Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth and author of Divine Renovation, spoke these words at the Lift Jesus Higher Rally, an annual event which took place at the Metro Convention Centre in downtown Toronto on March 7, 2020. This year’s theme was “Jesus, Light of the World”.
That rally was just a little over a week ago, before the novel coronavirus was declared a pandemic. As someone who is deeply sensitive to what is happening around her, it’s always been good practice for me to choose when and how much [bad] news I consume in a day. At first, my temptation was to limit my consumption of COVID-19 news because I didn’t want to give any power to the culture of fear I saw slowly increasing.
But ever since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, it seemed to me that not staying up-to-date with the latest developments was irresponsible. We now face the reality of this pandemic every day. We wake up thinking about it; we go to bed thinking about it. It’s forcing us to change our habits, and it's disrupting our cozy lifestyles. Despite our best efforts to remain patient, the constant reminder of the coronavirus sneaking its way into our communities is creating stress, anxiety, and fear.
Ralph Martin, president of Renewal Ministries (a sponsor of the Lift Jesus Higher Rally), told me they chose the theme because “we really [wanted to] recognize that Jesus is the light of the world [and] He has come to defeat the darkness and to pull people out of darkness”. Although he was speaking of our secular culture which so often rejects God, we could say that this pandemic is a tangible example of a different kind of darkness. Unfortunately, the tendency at a time like this is to allow ourselves to be dominated by it.
But again, at the rally, Fr. James Mallon addressed the young people specifically, in a separate talk, and challenged them: “Who has authority in your life? To whom do you submit?” If Jesus is the one we submit our lives to, the one who is “the light of the world”, then Jesus can only be that: a source of light and clarity when the present moment weighs heavily and the future is uncertain.
There are already signs of light! We are hearing stories of cooperation between neighbours, people singing together from their balconies in Italy, priests travelling between neighbourhoods celebrating Mass, priests offering drive-in confessions, and people encouraging each other to check in on their elderly or vulnerable family members.
We are also being emboldened by our Church leaders to not become lazy about our spiritual lives but rather to increase our practice, hold on to hope, and be a clear voice to our coworkers, our friends, and our family members struggling to abandon their fearfulness.
Jesus is Lord. He is deserving of all my trust in this pandemic. As Christians, it is vital, in particular now, that we believe and live by those words. The Lift Jesus Higher Rally was definitely on point this year.