Bishop Persico has stopped public masses in hopes of fighting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a bold step that is necessary as well as providential. It is necessary because we cannot claim to support the most vulnerable among us if we continued business as usual when so much of our ministry would put those same people at risk. This shutdown is being dictated by local government, and it is also required of us by our morality.
Maybe it is also providential in some way because the other side of crisis is opportunity. Whether we personally become ill, or tragedy strikes our family, or not, we can be in solidarity with one another because we are all experiencing various levels of isolation, restriction and financial burden. In convenience and comfort we sometimes forget what it means to have compassion. Experiencing our own needs more consciously can help us be more attentive to the needs of others. Our current circumstance demands that we put our faith into action through care of those in need.
We’ve seen the dark-side of our behavior long before the first local symptoms of the disease. Primal instincts have prompted panic in the stock market, the raiding of grocery stores, and grew anxious lines out the liquor store door. Hopefully that short term panic will wane and our better nature will grow into the task of fulfilling the needs of others as an extension of our own.
For the last 3 years of our partnership I have been trying to engage people in identifying the essence of our faith. It is hard to name our deepest thirst when our cup is flowing. This lengthy stoppage of liturgy may help us quantify what we need; it may also unveil new ways of fulfilling those needs we had been too entrenched to see before. Absence makes the heart grow fonder not by making us yearn for what was, but rather by giving us a greater appreciation for what is and enthusiasm for what can be.
This spreading disease may act like a wild fire burning a mature forest, but the scorching heat might also unleash spiritual seeds which defy destruction and sprout new life in the least expected environs.
Although this feels like a Lent from hell, we are still an Easter people destined for resurrection.
Rev. Mark O’Hern