As the weather changes and the days get longer, we walk, unencumbered by masks, protected by the medicine bestowed by God through the science that is but the result of His Creation (especially through the discipline of the human mind) and we emerge from the darkness of the tomb called pandemic.
In leaving the darkness of fear and loneliness, we can perceive around us the results of our hope in God and the steadfastness of our belief. Throughout this long stay in the tomb of our fears and limitations, the Church has continued to minister and to pray. The Sacraments continued. Masses were celebrated. Liturgical prayer reached up to the heavens. Even in the tomb, Christ hugged us with His Love and the Spirit inspired us with hope.
Now that there is a possibility that the pandemic is ending, we are emerging as if from a tomb to see the bright dawn of the Resurrection. In the seeming euphoria of the moment (mixed with the hesitancy of uncertainty—is it really over?), it is a good time for us to consider what has changed and what we have learned from this living with death all around us.
As in all things, the only way I can do this is to relate my own reflections and learnings and hope that it connects with the experience of you, the reader. I may be off in what I say. I may be incomplete in what I relate. But I hope, at least, it is honest enough that you can find meaning in it.
I think I would start with the word ‘appreciate’. This experience of the pandemic (and especially the initial lockdown in NYC when we were alone in our misery) has taught me to appreciate my life and the world around me, and to especially value the simple things of life: health, friends, family, a smile, a child, an aged person, music; and most importantly, the God of my life Who will never abandon me and Who is the most faithful Friend that I have.
We take this for granted when these realities are not threatened. But this plague threatened everything that we took for granted: health, medical care, family, the economy, schools, etc. This was an experience that one reads about in history books. Most of us never thought that we would live through a plague.
So, we adapted. And the Church did so with a speed, efficiency and effectiveness that showed her deep inner resources. Masses were streamed, schools went virtual, the work of the Sacraments continued while fulfilling our duty of obedience to the secular state that has the responsibility to coordinate the different elements of our city and country so as to effectively fight against this pestilence.
This was the tomb of our daily lives for over 100 days.
I remember with fondness the 16 fireside chats that we had together during the time of maximum lockdown. The work of God did not miss a beat. We rose to the challenge and we prevailed.
Now we emerge from the tomb and breathe the new air of safety and hope. Everyone did their part.
What have we learned?
Clearly, we need to truly value the simple pleasures of our lives. The air we breathe, the food we eat, the companionship of friends, the security of family: we have been given so much by God that our lives should be one big chorus of thanksgiving to Him!
We can so easily lose the appreciation we should have regarding these simple aspects of our daily life. It takes a disaster like a pandemic to make us value what we have often taken for granted.
It also taught us, on the other hand, to put into a rightful place the material aspects of our lives and begin to truly cherish the spiritual reality of our lives. The importance to us of the material is very self-evident. Our food, shelter, friends, family, livelihood etc., are rightly seen to be important to our present and future. But when all of these things are threatened by an invisible microbe, what then are the things that transcend this present life that are impervious to the microbes and other enemies of our wellbeing: God, our souls, eternal life.
One begins to see the utter folly and precariousness of concentrating all of one’s hopes and expectations on this life alone. It is so impermanent and can easily take the place of what should be our ultimate concern: God and our future with Him or without Him.
As we emerge from the tomb of this pandemic, let us then ask God for the simple realities of our lives on earth; and, most of all, let us value the things that are permanent and that transcend this life. For to do otherwise would be sheer folly.
“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:20-21