Lent – predictably brings penance & Springtime every year. Really! There is nothing predictable about Lent and Spring, 2020. COVID-19 has struck our world. Check out the map – only the penguins seem to have escaped – at least for the moment.
To say I am bummed out is an understatement. I don’t know what to make of it. I wake up in the morning checking my breath and throat. As of now no symptoms, but I’ll check again tomorrow, and who knows. How many are living with a family member at greater risk because of age or other conditions? Worrying about a loved one is more unnerving than worrying about ourselves.
Isn’t this a time to gather together spiritually at Mass and socially at our favorite restaurant. Oh wait – only take-out, and private prayer, no Mass – that’s a prescription for social isolation. Forget about the gym, forget about the big screen movies. Even the dentist cancelled my appointment – well, maybe that’s not so bad.
And probably the worst part – when will the next shoe drop? And, it’s beyond my control. Isn’t this a humbling experience for this obsessive, wanting to be in control New Yorker? Maybe that’s an insight and message from our God – this volatile, dangerous and out-of-control Lent and Spring. How often do we delude ourselves that we are in control? How much effort do we expend trying to control things that might well be better left alone? I guess I’m not the center of the universe.
Let me be clear: I do not like the way God has chosen to send this message to me, and us. But then again, I’m fairly sure Jesus did not appreciate the way the Father chose for him to save the world on Good Friday. Let me quote Jesus: “Why have you forsaken me?” “Take this cup of suffering from me.”
Yet, here we are – overwhelmed, floundering, – and with more emails than we could possibly ever read. So…
We have no choice but to slow down and pause. Yes, conference calls, emails and texts abound and maybe increase. But even with all that – less commuting, fewer meetings and events, less going out and more time to simply be quiet, reflect and pray – either alone or with family. We need to figure out how to take advantage of this – even with all our anxiety. If we don’t, ironically, we’ll miss the once-in-a-lifetime “opportunity” the COVID-19 crisis offers us. “Be still, and know that I am God.” O.K. Can we at least try?
As social distancing pushes us farther apart physically, the gospel paradoxically accelerates the demand that we draw closer to each other in sacred spiritual solidarity. This solidarity consists of compassion, respect, dignity, integrity, fairness, truth, openness for neighbors across the street, and sisters and brothers across the globe. This infectious disease has rapidly spread across continents. Permit me a moment of naïve prayer that an antidote of infectious healing love might overtake the virus. God, please answer our prayer.
Jesus did not ask for the cross of Calvary. We didn’t ask for the cross of this pandemic. And yet, we are nailed. Can we allow God to transform our 2020 Lenten cross into new life and salvation? Can we unite with Jesus who died, and was raised from the dead? It’s a lot to ask, maybe too much – unless we are humble enough to take the time to turn our crises and opportunities; our despairs and our hopes over to God who creates, sustains, accompanies, and saves.
Msgr. Kevin Sullivan