As we all shelter at home to avoid the COVID-19 virus, we are learning many things and being reminded of others.
Some of us are learning to use new digital platforms so we can communicate with co-workers and customers, teachers and classmates, family and friends. And in doing so, we are reminded that indeed we are social beings, who need, even crave, human contact.
Some of us are learning how to sit quietly and peacefully by ourselves on our patio watching the birds flit from branch to branch in our yards. And we are reminded not only of the beauty of nature but of the wonderful calm that can embrace us when the frantic pace of life isn’t constantly pushing all that surrounds us past us in a unrecognizable blur.
Some of us, deprived of the opportunity to visit a restaurant, are learning new dishes to cook, or how to cook in the first place. And as we gather around the table with our families, we are reminded that a meal can nourish not only our body, but our hearts and souls as well.
With the suspension of the public celebration of Mass, we are learning about spiritual communion as a way to welcome Christ into our hearts even when we can’t receive his body and blood. And we are reminded how the Mass, when we are all gathered at the altar, is the ultimate expression of communion and thanksgiving.
And Pope Francis, in his homily during the extraordinary “Urbi et Orbi” blessing on March 27, taught us that the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the world is a reminder that we must trust and hope in the Lord.
The pope’s homily was a reflection on the gospel reading from Mark about how Jesus quieted the storm at sea that was about to sink the boat carrying him and the Apostles. While the storm raged, Jesus slept. The Apostles, fearing for their lives, finally woke him and said, “Teacher, do you not care we are perishing?”
After Jesus calmed the sea and stilled the wind, he turned to the Apostles and said, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
Like the Apostles on that boat, we are feeling fearful in the face of the pandemic. Pope Francis reminded us that Christ is now asking us what he asked the Apostles: Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?
Now is the time to turn to our faith, the pope reminded us. “The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering.”
How, then are we, isolated by our physical separation, to put into practice that solidarity and hope that defines our faith?
We can start with a prayer. A prayer for those who are suffering. A prayer for those who are caring for the people who are suffering. A prayer for those feeling all alone and forgotten. A prayer for those who are finding new ways to reach out to their neighbors with an offer of comfort, support and friendship. A prayer for those who are risking their own health to make sure we have the things we need to protect our health.
When our lives are beset with trials, as they are now, we can be quick to turn to God for an answer. We wonder, does God not care that we are about to perish. But these turbulent times will eventually be calmed, and we will return to Mass and sharing the Eucharistic banquet. Through it all we have a choice. Will we allow our faith, our hope in God, to fade, or will we take to heart the lessons we are learning? Will we use this trial to strengthen our faith and deepen our hope?