Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we all had ways of living that we had gotten used to. Now, they seem to be elusive. The Pandemic has fundamentally changed how we live.
One thing that is different is our sense of security. As Americans, we live in a very safe country with great and dependable services. With this Pandemic, a rising sense of insecurity has begun to besiege us. Can I depend on a Doctor if I needed one? Would going to a hospital be a possibility if I should get really sick? Can I be assured that I can go and help a loved one in need? Does living in one of the most advanced cities in the world mean I can go safely wherever I want to go?
A few months ago, these questions would have seemed nonsensical. Not today. This Pandemic has not only interrupted our lives; it has fundamentally changed how the world will relate in the future. Nations seem besides the point now. This virus has taught us our common humanity. This global awareness is taking center stage. Working together and solving our common problems is now a necessity and a priority. Our vulnerability makes us feel how we really need one another.
This new sense of insecurity can be seen painfully in the breakdown in our economy. We are all financially interdependent. We are all part of a whole and, when we cannot thrive in it, then many lives are affected. It can also be very scary when things have to change because people are not there to do their jobs. You cannot rely on the status quo. Our wonderful economy just seemed to hum along, almost giving the appearance that it was indestructible. And now things are not so clear.
Besides our vulnerability and our interconnectedness, for us believers, this Pandemic has taught us how much we need God, how important community is, and what the deeper meaning of things are that we just went along believing: life after death, faith, revelation.
Who of us has not, in the darkness of night, when we could not sleep, thought realistically of our own deaths? This Pandemic has brought to the fore the need for hope and the constant threat of despair.
I remember Saint John Cardinal Newman’s distinction between notional and real assent. The notional is merely in our mind and is a sort of an abstraction. Yes, I believe that what the labels says: “This rope can hold up to 250 lbs of weight” is true. But is it real assent? Let’s hang grandma out the window by that rope! No? Why not? The label said it would hold up to 250 lbs and grandma weighs 120 Lbs. Right? No, you would probably dangle a very heavy inert object from the rope first and see if it really holds up. And when it does, then you can give it your real assent. (But please leave Grandma alone!)
When speaking about death, we can give a notional assent to our belief that death is merely a transition and that there is life after death. But on our death bed, will it be a real assent? That can only come through faith.
As I get older, death is becoming more and more real to me. Hitting 70 this year, I am in a segment of the population where the risk of death from this Pandemic is more likely. I woke up a number of times during the last few weeks thinking of how fragile my life is. I thought during those moments: What is death? How does it feel? Do I really believe in eternal life?
One of the things this time has done for many people is made faith a matter of life and death. It is not just a pretty ‘churchy’ word. It means something important and real.
Even Jesus was rendered powerless when there was no faith in evidence. When He went home to Nazareth, the people had no faith in Him and He regretted that He could not work any miracles. On the other hand, the woman with the issue of blood had great faith. She got a charge right from Jesus for her healing without Jesus even knowing who accessed the power within Him. It automatically flowed from Him. It was simply her faith that made it happen!
This is a time for real faith. We need the power of God to get through this. No matter what lies ahead of us, we must be armed with faith to face this uncertain world and this new “normal”.