A worker sanitizes Ponte della Paglia bridge on St. Mark's Square as a measure to fight against the coronavirus in Venice, Italy, March 12, 2020. CNS photo/Manuel Silvestri, Reuters

Editorial: A caring approach

  • March 12, 2020

A natural reaction to the new coronavirus is to ask how can I protect myself, but a Christian response is to ask how can I protect my neighbour.

Both approaches may help counter the spread of the COVID-19 virus that has infected more than 100,000 people worldwide. But one approach is prideful, the other caring.

So in addition to the many precautions being prescribed to contain this new virus we’ll add a simple instruction: above all, be a good Christian.

The tendency is to expect health authorities and governments to keep us safe. They certainly play important roles, but ultimately individuals must help curtail the spread of this virus through common-sense decisions that, more than keep themselves healthy, safeguard their communities.

For Sunday worshippers, for example, that means if you feel sick, stay home. Then on Monday, consider the health of others before going to work, riding on transit, shopping at the mall or visiting any place where others could be infected.

“There is no place for selfishness if you are a Christian,” Pope Francis once said, and although he wasn’t referring to coronavirus, he could have been.

This new virus has caused suffering around the world, but it can also be a catalyst for a type of introspection that is appropriate at Lent. It reminds us of the importance of prayer, of our duty to pray for the afflicted and for God’s mercy. It also makes a forceful statement about our human frailty. In our weakness, we are summoned to seek strength by submitting ourselves to God and uniting in humility during Lent as we move towards the cross.

The speed and extent at which the disease has spread also underlines what Pope Francis has preached about integral ecology and how the world is an interconnected biosphere. This is true in politics, finance, the environment and, as we now see, in health. Individual decisions and actions — even things as basic as riding a bus — impact those around us and thus we are morally obligated in all our behaviours to be mindful of the well being of others.

Contrary to a culture that lauds autonomy and individualism, we are called to make choices in a spirit of generosity and sacrifice that support the common good and place self interest behind the needs of God’s world. That attitude is particularly required amidst a global health crisis but, like the spiritual revitalization of Lent, a reinvigorated ethos of unselfishness should shepherd our actions year round.

As a community of believers, Christians are called to reject singularity in favour of communal acts of compassion, charity and solidarity. That should be our response to the new coronavirus.

Rather than simply ask how do we protect ourselves, we must also ask how do we respond as a people of faith to care for each other, today and always.

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