By Deacon Andrzej Sobczyk
We are living in unprecedented times. Most of us do not remember a year when life was affected in such profound ways. We are forced to stay home, grocery store shelves are half empty, streets and highways seem deserted, and we cannot even pray next to each other. Many of us live in fear: fear of someone close to us dying from the virus, fear of the healthcare system collapsing and not being there for us when we really need it, fear of losing our job and income, and worry about our retirement security. We cannot meet with friends, go on planned vacations, or perhaps even visit elderly parents and grandparents. Baptisms and weddings are postponed, funerals are brief, our grief is raw and unprocessed; we cannot even hug the people who long for consolation. We are isolated and deprived of so much that we came to take for granted. To say that this Lent is unusual would be a great understatement.
In the middle of this tragedy and destruction, among the fallen ashes of lost dreams and hopes, I can see, though, some diamonds forming, and sparkling with the rays of goodness and hope. Healthcare workers are bravely fighting the darkness, risking their own lives while the stock of their protective gear is dwindling. Grocery store workers, pharmacists, delivery drivers, police, paramedics, firefighters, and many others working in essential services are supporting and protecting us with the shield of their own bodies and courage, even as they experience their own fear and uncertainty. Neighbors volunteer to shop for the elderly and the most vulnerable; they donate part of their own supplies to those in greater need. A sense of duty, responsibility, and connection propels all those people forward, and towards others, as they offer acts of kindness, care, and compassion. They might not have time to reflect on it, but they are saving us, offering their unconditional love and suffering for all; they are, as it were, Christ Himself, the One who came to serve and not be served.
Scientists are working around the clock, racing to find a cure and develop a vaccine. People work from their homes to quietly support the economy and our existence. Spiritual leaders are praying for their communities and all of creation. Artists inspire and entertain lonely people in new and creative ways, people reach out to each other to show that they care and share their jokes to bring a touch of joy. Despite the increased risk, volunteers and non-profit organizations continue to care for the homeless, the poor, the immigrants, seniors, the most vulnerable. We all have a role to play, even if it is just staying home and not spreading the virus to others; in fact, it is an important role, and doctors are pleading with us to do just that, and save their lives in the process.
The virus knows no borders, and that is scary, but it also makes us realize, more than ever before, that we are in this all together. And I don’t mean just the pandemic; I mean life, humanity, creation, universe and cosmos, I mean Love. We have stopped chasing away the homeless, we have halted evictions and foreclosures. Countries, businesses, and individuals with an extra supply of masks are donating them to others.
This great suffering has made us more caring and more sensitive to the needs of our sisters and brothers. It has made us all a little more Christ-like. Christ sees all creation as one, and this crisis has allowed us to see the world through the eyes of Christ, even if just for a moment, a day, a month, or a year.
It is a great blessing to experience this alignment, this intimate connection with God. I have no illusion that it will last forever, although I do imagine it every day and pray for the Kingdom to come. But I do sincerely hope that this experience of suffering and solidarity will help us move at least incrementally forward and closer together in spirit.
Perhaps it will manifest itself in a creation of a more inclusive and universal healthcare system, which would mean a lot to all the uninsured and underinsured. Perhaps it will be a greater availability of more affordable housing. Perhaps it will be our willingness to pay everyone a living wage and provide paid sick leave. Perhaps it will be a recognition that immigrants are not a threat or an evil. Perhaps it will be a little more kindness, healing, and unconditional love. And that is already a lot.