All humanity is being put to the test. The Covid-19 pandemic puts us in a situation of unprecedented, dramatic and global difficulty whose power to destabilize the plans we have for our lives is growing day by day…….the pandemic highlights with unexpected harshness the precariousness that radically characterizes our human condition……. [1a]
Released in March of this year by the Pontifical Academy For Life the entire document was/is prescient in looking deeply at the various components of the pandemic.
Part of the precariousness that characterizes the human condition, a condition deeply wounded by personal and collective sin, is the tendency towards a mentality that sees other as threat or other as owing me, often for some injustice the other has had nothing to do with, for example aggrieved individuals or groups demanding of the present generation compensation for the sins of ancestors committed against the aggrieved group or individual leading to a bizarre and heartbreaking placard I saw the other day: No lives matter until black lives matter.
…… we must learn to render our freedoms collaborative for the common good, to overcome the tendencies, which an epidemic can nourish, to see in the other an “infectious” threat from which to distance ourselves, an enemy from which to protect oneself……..We are part of humanity and humanity is part of us. We must accept this dependency and appreciate the responsibility that makes us participants and protagonists in it. There is no right that does not have a resultant corresponding duty: the coexistence of those who are free and equal is an exquisitely ethical question, not a technical one. We are therefore called to recognize, with new and deep emotion, that we are entrusted to each other. Never as much as today has the caring relationship presented itself as the fundamental paradigm for human coexistence. [1b]
As counter to the demanding mentality of those who cling to actual or imagined grievances/wounds of the past, a mentality which exacerbates the stress of the pandemic and only leads to more anger and divisions, we have the example of Ven. Pierre Toussaint born into slavery in Haiti and when, after finally being freed – though his life witnesses actual slavery only is effective if interiorly we choose to be enslaved – he demanded no re-dress, did not choose anger, hatred, rather he lovingly poured himself out to care for the one who had once ‘owned’ him and for others throughout his entire life. 
There is the example too of St. Josephine Bakhita who was enslaved as a child, sold over and over again until an Italian diplomat deliberately bought her to set her free. Once in Italy she soon embraced the Catholic faith becoming a nun and caring for the poor. 
Numerous are the examples of men and women, priests and religious who in the living hells of the Nazi death camps, the gulag and all the modern concentration and labour camps, places of modern slavery, focus not on anger and hatred, not on demanding revenge, but on forgetting self and caring for others, breaking the back of evil and giving to others hope, the experience of human dignity, of love.
Let us not be naive.
Hatred, from those who oppose the Gospel of Life, oppose the Church’s defense of marriage and family life, this hatred like the yellow-green gas clouds snaking across the battlefields of WWI with all their lethality, yes hatred spews like that poison from the anti-Christian media, special interest groups, politicians, and others, demanding the Church change Her teachings, in a word that She and faithful Catholics abandon Christ and His Gospel: "The age of martyrs is not yet over, even today we can say, in truth, that the Church has more martyrs now than during the first centuries. The Church has many men and women who are maligned through calumny, who are persecuted, who are killed in hatred of Jesus, in hatred of the faith... they are our brothers and sisters who are suffering today, in this age of the martyrs. …..we have persecutions: with words, with insults…….. in order to bear witness to light and to truth, the Church experiences, in different places, harsh persecution, up to the supreme sacrifice of martyrdom. How many of our brothers and sisters in faith endure abuse and violence and are hated because of Jesus! ….. The poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who thirst for holiness, mercy, the pure in heart and peacemakers may lead to persecution because of Christ….. ultimately this persecution is a cause of joy and of great reward in heaven. The way of the Beatitudes is an Easter path that leads us from a life in accord with the world to one of God, from a life led by the flesh — that is by selfishness — to one guided by the Spirit. It is painful to recall that in this very moment, there are many Christians in various parts of the world who are suffering from persecution, and we must hope and pray that their trials will soon end….We are a single body and these Christians are the bleeding limbs of the body of Christ who is the Church. In persecutions there is always the presence of Jesus who accompanies us, the presence of Jesus who comforts us and the strength of the Holy Spirit that helps us to go forward. Let us not be discouraged when a life that is faithful to the Gospel draws persecution from people. There is the Holy Spirit who sustains us in this journey.” 
Because we are called through Baptism to be living witnesses to Christ, to life, truth, perhaps not for most of us martyrdom by blood, certainly by oppression from media, ersatz Catholics who publicly reject Church teachings they don’t like. Our strength and courage, our peace and joyful hope in persecution and in the pandemic comes from the reality that Jesus, as He assures us, is with us in every moment: “….behold, I am with you always, until the end of time.” [Mt. 28:20]
Covid-19 has brought desolation to the world. We have lived it for so long, now, and it is not over yet. It might not be for a very long time. What to make of it? Surely, we are summoned to the courage of resistance…… Limitations of social contacts are frightening; they can lead to situations of isolation, despair, anger, and abuse. For elderly people in the last stages of life the suffering has been even more pronounced, for the physical distress is coupled by diminished quality of life and lack of visiting family and friends……The prevailing metaphors now encroaching on our ordinary language emphasize hostility and a pervasive sense of menace: the repeated encouragements to “fight” the virus, the press releases that sound like “bulletins of war,” the daily updates on the number of infected, soon turning into “fallen victims.” In the suffering and death of so many, we have learned the lesson of fragility….. Immense, unspeakable misery, and the struggle for basic survival needs, has brought into evidence the condition of prisoners, those living in extreme poverty at the margins of society, especially in developing countries, the abandoned destined to oblivion in refugee camps from hell. 
Phone calls from people across Canada and the US, emails, chats with people, masked face to masked face, when out walking, all affirm the stress and confusion as noted above. Under the stress of the pandemic people are filled with anger directed at whomever is the handiest target because, if we be honest, our anger is threefold: 1] obviously there is no God or if there is He simple doesn’t care about what’s happening and is absent; 2] government, i.e. whomever is supposed to take care of us is incapable of protecting us from this virus; 3] at ourselves because we really do hate not being in control.
Since much of contemporary Christianity is tainted, therefore weakened, by secularist notions, it behooves all Christians, Catholics above all, to heed these words of Pope Emeritus Benedict from a talk given when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger called: THE GOOD FRIDAY OF HISTORY: We must also learn – again, not just theoretically, but in the way we think and act – that in addition to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Church and in the Blessed Sacrament, there is that other, second real presence of Jesus in the least of our brethren in the downtrodden of this world, in the humblest; He wants us to find Him in all of them. To accept this truth ever anew is the decisive challenge that Good Friday presents to us year after year. 
This is the stark choice we have while enduring this pandemic: faithless anger, frustration, darkness of mind, heart, soul – or – to choose to put other first and choose to believe, to trust, to hope, to love as acting persons and thus living the reality that as baptized persons we are light in the darkness because He who is Light dwells within us and radiates from us towards everyone.
Our condition is a wounded freedom. We might reject it as a curse, a provisional situation to be soon overcome. Or we can learn a different patience: capable of consent to finitude, of renewed porosity to neighbourly proximity and distant otherness. 
To paraphrase Henri Nouwen, we can choose to be the ‘wounded healer’ for others or to wallow in just being wounded! We live in a society in which loneliness has become one of the most painful human wounds.  True before the pandemic it is more pervasive now and given the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down, much less ending, and given all the various isolation edicts we must become very creative in how we alleviate this parallel pandemic of loneliness, loss of faith and hope, and for some loss of love in their lives.
It can seem unfair, exhausting even when Christianity itself is under such attack, for we Christians to take seriously and live out the Great Commandment to love one another, that is everyone, as Jesus loves us.
If we do not, who will? Who will be the ears that hear the cry of the poor, the lonely, the homeless, the sick, the exhausted care-givers and respond not with altruistic humanism, as helpful as that may be, but with a love which bears the burdens of others and lifts them and their suffering and needs up to the heart of God in prayer?
We are baptized to be apostles of Christ, witnesses to Him and His love for everyone, for: As members of the Mystical Body, we are the minds to meditate and the eyes to look on the reality of the world, the ears to hear its cries and pleas, the arms to rescue and support; the feet to go to the suffering, the heart to bring compassion and love to those in need, the mouth to speak words of love and consolation. 
The more we move outside of ourselves, stop listening to the voices of doom and gloom, of anger and vengeance, of demands and blame, and seek voices of hope and comfort, like that of Pope Francis and ordinary people who speak kindly when we are out for a walk, or who join in prayer even if restrictions mean liturgies are viewed online more often than in person, then we will experience that peace and joy, the comfort and love rooted in Christ and the Gospel, experienced by St. Francis and we too will pray and live out: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy; O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
[1b] op. cit.
 FAITH AND POLITICS, Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI; 1 The Good Friday of History; pp.25,26; Ignatius Press; 2018
 THE WOUNDED HEALER, Henri Nouwen, p. 83; Image Books 1979
 THE ROAD OF HOPE, a gospel from prison, Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan; p.92; Wellspring 2018
© 2020 Fr. Arthur Joseph
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