We are in the middle of a global catastrophe -- or perhaps at the very beginning of one.
Covid-19 is causing havoc, not only in terms of people's health but as a great interrupter of everyday life. Airlines, travel agencies, hotels, convention centers, event organizations, financial institutions, entertainment centers, and companies dependent on manufacturing are all reeling as a result of the coronavirus' widening reach. Some schools are closing or have lengthened Spring Break; sports teams are staying home and travel abroad programs have been cancelled. Factories are short staffed and automobile manufacturers lack the parts that are needed on the assembly line. Companies are laying off workers and those who make a living from tourism, event planning and the entertainment industry are having to deal with cancelled contracts and lost income. For some, especially for those in quarantine, lost income can translate into very real financial hardship. And this is only the beginning....
How do we live in such a time? How do we pray? How do we treat one another?
I believe that this is a time for seeing beyond our needs, beyond our fears, and for being aware of those who are bearing the burden of this virus. As long as we maintain an attitude of
"I'm OK so all is right with the world,"
we will be incapable of feeling empathy for others. We need to see and to respond, to pray and offer comfort, to give and to demand that our elected officials provide the leadership that is needed at this time -- a leadership based not just on the allocation of funds to fight the virus but leadership that recognizes the personal and economic fallout that so many are suffering, a leadership that is not afraid to speak truth and reveal facts, a leadership that serves generously and compassionately....
In a time of plague and chaos, we need more than ever to think globally as well as locally, to live consciously and responsibly and, of course, to rely on prayer. This is the formula for survival, a way of living that helps us transcend fear and move towards hope!
Be well/ Stay well!
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
Peter was more at home in the world of tents, fishing nets and manual labor than he was in the spiritual universe. When events happened which were beyond his comprehension, he resorted to every day thinking, unable to process the deeper meaning of what he had seen or heard. On the mount of transfiguration, he beheld Moses and Elijah conversing with Jesus and interrupted them with the suggestion that he should build them three tents.
What was he thinking?
There was Moses, the giver of the Law, and there was Elijah, representative of the Prophets and instead of listening to them, Peter came up with a construction project. Now, it is unlikely that the materials to build three tents were even available on that mountain peak, unless he intended to use brushwood and stones; nevertheless, he wrapped his mind around a concrete project instead of reflecting, watching, waiting. In his eagerness to be useful, he missed the moment. In the presence of the Holy, he thought of freezing the experience by placing Moses, Elijah and Jesus inside individual tents. We have no idea how Andrew and James reacted to this suggestion, but it is difficult to imagine the rationale behind his offer. Even if he had been able to construct the three tents, would they have been a temporary shelter or a permanent residence? Moses had been dead for about 1500 years; Elijah, for nearly a 1000 years-- were they returning from the grave? And what about Jesus? Was he about to take up residence in a tent on a mountain peak so that others could visit him as if he were on display? Clearly, though the offer was a generous one, this was not Peter's finest hour. Barely were the words out of his mouth when he and his companions found themselves overshadowed by cloud; terrified, they heard a voice come from the Heavens:
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
This utterance was both a response to Peter's babbling (he was evidently
listening) and also a commandment that the disciples should listen to Jesus. Peter, in fact, had only a few days earlier remonstrated with Jesus over his prediction of his Passion (Mt 16:23). Jesus had responded by saying,
"You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (23).
Perhaps Peter believed that if Jesus were safely installed in a tent, he would escape the sufferings he had predicted. High on this mountain, protected by Moses and Elijah, Jesus would be out of the reach of his enemies; at the same time, his friends would have complete access to him, without the inconvenience of having to deal with all the crowds. Yes, it
good to be on that mountain but Peter was out of his element; he had the experience but missed the meaning.
And what about us? The spiritual is all around us; the Divine Presence is in all places, at all times, communicating with us, guiding us, leading us -- if only we have eyes to see and ears to hear. Moses spoke to God face to face, as friend to friend-- does God desire any less from us? What obscures our vision and makes us babble in the face of mystery?