Anything I write now about Covid-19 will be "old news" within the hour. Stocks tumble, rally, then tumble again. Countries dealing with the virus see their numbers of infected citizens double, triple, then quadruple. Politicians make promises they cannot keep, or try to calm the public -- and the markets-- by downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic. All over the world, concerts, conferences, sporting events and other gatherings have been cancelled. Schools and businesses have closed, supermarkets have run out of supplies and many industries face financial ruin. At last count, there were over 1,000 dead in Italy alone and the unburied dead were "in quarantine" along with their living relatives.
We are living with uncertainty, in the unknown. No one is immune to the virus; while some of us are more at risk than others, Covid-19 has struck where it will, taking down the young as well as the old, the rich as well as the poor, the educated as well as those with little formal education. With companies going under, travel restrictions, lay-offs, and shut-downs, few of us, if any, can carry on as usual. All of us are having to change plans, face disappointments, and adapt to a world that changes minute by minute. We are learning how little control we have over events and outcomes and that all most of us can do is be prepared, listen to the advice given by scientists and stay home when possible.
Grim as this situation is, however, we can choose to live either as spiritual beings or as frustrated, terrified victims. If we cannot work, let us play and pray. If we are confined indoors, let us plant seeds and watch them grow. If we are facing financial hardship, let us look for creative short term solutions. If we have more time than work, let us read a book, phone a friend, indulge a hobby, help a neighbor...
The basic questions we must each ask are simple ones: '
What have I learned from this experience and how will this change me? Do I choose to live as fully as possible or am I allowing Covid-19 to rule my life? Where is God in all of this?
Be well/ Stay well!
Jesus said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
A parish priest once shared with me a story that could be best described as a tragicomedy. He had met with two of his parishioners who were thinking of getting divorced, having offered to serve as a mediator. The couple had been married for nearly 25 years and had raised their children in the parish. As both their pastor and family friend, he wanted them to have one final opportunity to see if they could bridge their differences.
"John, is there anything you would like to say to Sally?"
There was a brief pause as John struggled to compose himself.
he said, glaring at his wife.
"What have you done with the small saucepan -- you know, the one I use for scrambled eggs?"
And with that question, the mediation session came to an end.
The husband in this narrative was what one might describe as a "concrete thinker." Instead of reflecting on his years of marriage, all he could think about was the missing saucepan. Instead of speaking from the heart, he spoke out of anger, blaming and complaining vociferously. as if the saucepan were the most important thing in the world. And in that moment it was. An opportunity for grace became yet another moment of dysfunction; the pastor's efforts to help the couple communicate ended in absurdity. As Sally commented, there was nothing more to be said because her husband's only frame of reference was a $20 saucepan.
The Samaritan woman was also a concrete thinker. She was not fixated on saucepans but, rather, on buckets, cisterns and water pitchers. When Jesus said he could offer her living water, her immediate reaction was to note that he didn't have a bucket and that the cistern was deep. Then, not understanding the spiritual nature of this water, she began to see how her life would be so much easier if she didn't have to walk back and forth to the well. She was only able to see beyond the literal when Jesus brought up the matter of her five husbands and her lover. Convinced that he was a prophet, she now believed that he could indeed give her living water. With the taste of water on her lips, she put down her water pitcher, and ran to proclaim she had seen the Messiah.
In our materialistic society, people tend to be concrete thinkers with little understanding of Mystery. Reality is a cell phone, a tablet, a movie, a good meal, a comfortable bed, a decent pay check, a night in the pub.... Consuming has become a way of life and as we fill ourselves with things and squander our dreams on "saucepans," we lose sight of the living water that became ours at baptism. At this midpoint in Lent, let us re-connect to the spring of water within -- the only reality that can satisfy the ache in our hearts, the only reality that can fill the void that consumes us....