Friday, April 17, 2020

What The Pandemic Is Teaching Us.

   Along with the other members of my Franciscan community I have been practicing what here in Florida are called Safer at Home measures. It is a blessing at this time to be living with a community.  I certainly appreciate the struggles that some people are going through who are living alone with no loved ones nearby to support them. Nonetheless it has been a challenge for us here in the friary.  We go out only for exercise walks and doctor visits. I myself have no scheduled preaching engagements until July, and that is in doubt.

   With all the time on our hands what do we do?  I find that having a schedule really helps. In religious life we have a schedule for meals and prayers, but having a plan with how we use the rest of our time is important and is a buffer against boredom. Still there is quite a bit of down time.  In our society I believe that we can be easily overstimulated with excitement, music, noise, etc. Perhaps this time can teach us the blessings of silence. Spiritually silence is an important dimension of prayer. It is also important emotionally. We need to learn to silence our minds, not to stop thinking altogether but so that we might concentrate more and give depth to our thinking.  Psalm 46:10 tells us "Be still, and know that I am God." Scripture scholars tell us that this invitation to be still not only calls us to silence and quiet.  It can also mean "let go", or as another translation of the Hebrew says, "Cease striving and know that I am God." To let go or to cease striving at this time is a call to let go of what is really not necessary. As we do without some of the material things we are accustomed to perhaps as we come out of this pandemic we will realize that so many things that we thought were vital and important really aren't.  Our consumerist culture makes us think that we really need things which are not necessities at all.  Now that we are without some of these things we can live more simply without them after the pandemic.  Related to this is that call to cease striving.  Of course, this does not mean to give up legitimate ambition or to not have goals but perhaps this time will help us to realize that we are too often busy about being busy, something that drains our energy and takes us away from what is really important.

   An important dimension of Catholic social teaching is seeking the common good. This, of course, is balanced by the right of the individual.  Our American culture, I believe, is too focused on the individual especially in the form of what many call rugged individualism.  At this time it is important to put the common good first, and many are doing this, yet there are still some who fail to see this.  Also we need to realize that this is a global pandemic.  We stand in solidarity with all peoples who suffer from this terrible virus. As we come out of lock-down and social distancing I would hope that we can grow into a deeper awareness of the common humanity we share with people everywhere.  This is a challenge for all peoples.  Pope Francis has constantly called for an end to war and peace between nations.  I am not naive.  There are conflicts and serious divisions, but perhaps as we emerge from this crisis nations can realize that war serves no one except the companies who sell arms.

  I pray that everyone may reflect on what is going on and ask what lessons there are to be learned. Hint.  Being blindly conservative or liberal is not the answer.


Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly