Our worlds have been turned upside down in recent weeks; the fear of contracting and or spreading the form of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has become an omnipresent reality for all of us. Fear and uncertainty seem to reign supreme at this time, which has brought out the worst and the best in our brothers and sisters.
On March 27, with only one priest 6 feet from him, Pope Francis delivered a special message and an “Urbi et Orbi” blessing, a blessing that is usually reserved for the most solemn of occasions, in an empty St. Peter’s Square. In his short reflection, based upon Mark 4:35-41 — where Jesus, awakened from sleep by his terrified disciples, calms the sea — Pope Francis makes a profound connection to this particular Gospel story and our current pandemic crisis:
“(Lord) you are calling us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgment but our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not.”
What matters in my life? What is necessary and what is not necessary? All of us face these questions every day as we decide whether or not to visit one of the few essential businesses that are open or venture out for a walk. Where are we finding comfort and communion with one another as we self isolate?
Our revolutions in communication technology have helped to bring us together with family, friends and loved ones. Sadly, these new tools can be misused and abused by those who wish to use this crisis as an opportunity to spread fear, distrust and suspicion.
We also witness the incredible generosity, thoughtfulness and kindness of our family, friends, neighbors and even perfect strangers. The granddaughter of one of our neighbors stopped by the other day with her grandmother — all the while keeping a safe distance from us — and gave us a small stone on which she painted the word “Joy” surrounded by flowers and other motifs.
She delivered them to seniors in our neighborhood, and people cried, thanked her and were so happy and gracious to get them. One person’s simple, thoughtful way of reaching out to others made such a difference in their days.
Thankfully, we are hearing many similar stories of generosity and kindness, stories of compassion and caring. Pope Francis speaks of this time as an opportunity “to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity,” to emerge as we live out our respective callings in life. It may also be a time to revive some older forms of reaching out: phone calls and letters come immediately to mind.
Whatever form of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity that we choose to utilize, whether old or new, during these challenging times, we all have choices and opportunities to make them happen.