The scripture readings during Lent recall the plight of the people of Israel without water or food as they fled from Egypt into the desert. The Israelites blamed Moses and God for their plight. There are parallels with the very human behaviour of panic buying at the onset of the corona virus. This behaviour shifts the blame to our leaders and to God as causing our worry and concern. Each of us is to take seriously the responsibility to protect the vulnerable people, many of whom have and could die if we don’t work together to stem the onset of the disease.
The corona virus is now affecting and impacting our everyday life, in a way that we have not experienced previously. The TV reports can shield us from the trauma that engulfed first the city of Wuhan, then the cruise ships, but the sickness and deaths spread from China, to other Asian cities, then to Europe and America, has now reached us here in Australia. Our reaction can be disbelief and complacency or one of fear of being one of the many will die or loose their lively hood with the spread of the disease.
Initially it was incomprehensible to see the stripping of the shelves in the supermarkets. Then, the threat to jobs and the fear of loosing our “retirement nest egg” indicate the challenges we face, even the basics can be taken from us – and toilet paper is really one of the least of our concerns. These issues require a different approach to life in today’s world. The closing of our church and no Masses need us to re-examine the message of the Gospel: when Jesus was asked “which is the greatest of the commandments?” He replied, “Love God and love your neighbour!” Our love of God is expressed by our love for each other, “where two or three are gathered in my name I am with them”! There is the opportunity today to be involved in the lives of others by using the phone and internet. Distance is shrunk and the contact is maintained by using the tools given to us. In our present situation, the Bishop has stressed that our responsibility is to care for those around us, and this is the most important way we can respond to the command of Christ. Pope Francis walked through the deserted streets of Rome to emphasis the message of caring for each other, just by keeping in touch. There are times when we could not get mass, but now is a time to reach out to others, not to focus on ourselves.
I write this on the feast of St Joseph (19/03/2020). His role in history highlights the graciousness of God, and his openness helps us to appreciate how much we are loved by God. Jesus came to live among us to share our thoughts and feelings, pain and suffering, hopes and desires: rather than leave us with our fears and worries. He wants us to face whatever disasters might fall on us, and he is there with us to help us carry our burdens. Our faith is the test of our love for each other. We experience faith as we experience the ups and downs of life. Our parents and family have taught us to learn to trust in times of concern and worry, by their love for us. Our ability to trust in the Father is built on this love, as we face the challenges and impacts of the corona virus on our lives. The fear and irresponsibility of others can make it difficult to love… in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed that his ministry of caring for others would continue, and trusted that his Father would find a way to continue his command to “love one another”. The challenge we face is to be open to God, so that the Spirit can reach into our hearts and this touch of God will encourage us to fulfill this command today, in ways we have not yet imagined.
Paul Cashen msc PP