As we all struggle to wrap our heads around the uncertainty the world finds itself, we are intensely reminded of how connected we all are, and how isolated. In the train from Echuca to Melbourne I sat largely alone, and though it was pretty pleasant on the surface it was discomforting to contemplate where everyone was, and how those same people were feeling.
We are seeing around the world that the Novel Coronavirus Covid 19, will target the most vulnerable and hide them from the rest of us– and we know that this is where we are called as Christians to step in.
As social and work gatherings are cancelled around the world, we know that we are not just calling ourselves indoors, we are being called into ourselves, into our thoughts and feelings. There is plenty of wondering and pondering how best to protect ourselves and our families, our co-workers and our students, our elders, our vulnerable – and these wonderings represent the best of ourselves.
In a society which largely tells us that we need to look after ourselves first or suffer the consequences, we have seen the hoarding of groceries in supermarkets which has been roundly criticised. At worst, those who have hoarded toilet paper and groceries have been abused and only slightly better, ridiculed. We have done this probably as a strange and awkward attempt to demonstrate our better sides; our community spirit and possibly the best result of this is that the more self-conscious shopper among us, has left something on the shelf for the next person.
But the hoarding isn’t the issue. One of the biggest underlying issues is the fear and anxiety that people feel – and this is a thing that ought to be addressed among us.
Like Italians leaning over their balconies to sing to their neighbours and lighting candles in their windows in a show of solidarity, we too need to remember and stand with the physically vulnerable, and those who are anxious, emotionally and spiritually.
We are reminded by the virus that we are one – that our health and security cannot be separated from the others around us. In fact, it reminds us that our collective human and spiritual health and wellbeing is dependent on caring for the most vulnerable among us – which is something that Jesus has reminded us for over 2000 years. It doesn’t take a virus to make this true.
And we also need to remind ourselves that those who were vulnerable before Covid-19 reared its head – still are, and they still require justice and assistance. We simply can’t turn away from them because their needs are still more urgent than the pandemic and perhaps exacerbated by it. They can’t afford for us to be completely distracted for long, if at all. We need to be having these conversations.
So, we are challenged by the events of today – and as Christians we expect to be. Where there are the vulnerable and scared, there we need to ‘be’ also.
So, hopefully we will take time to be thinking and pondering in what we can choose to perceive as an enforced sabbath away from our big events, but allow ourselves out of our interior contemplation long enough to ‘keep up the talk’ between us and continue to keep looking outward. I hope that we ask after each other, ask after each other’s significant others, ask after those caring for the vulnerable and keep asking… What do you need? How are you today? Who else do we need to reach out to today? We are technologically equipped like no other generation before us to keep our physical distance but keep our emotional and spiritual intimacy.
So, life changes but it also stays the same – the call to Christ, to prayer for the good of others, and to the common good and solidarity remain the same even in these days of heightened anxiety.
Go gently everybody.
For you has God commanded his angels
to keep you in all your ways.
They shall bear you upon their hands,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
Lean into all our efforts to keep ourselves and each other safe.
Hold our health care workers in your mighty arms,
Shine your boundless creativity on all scientists working on a cure
And with your fingertips comfort the sick and anxious with gentleness.
In Jesus Christ,