Paramedics in New York City take a patient into the Maimonides Medical Center April 7, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. CNS photo/Brendan McDermid, Reuters

Cathy Majtenyi: The COVID-19 world has much to teach us

  • April 9, 2020

The journey to Easter in 2020 has been a journey like no other.

In “normal” times, observing Lenten practices and, indeed, living out our faith year-round can be challenging. The world is full of distractions that entice us away from the narrow, disciplined path of following Jesus.

We get lost in the busyness of life to the extent where we become deaf to God’s voice and that of our neighbour. Jesus’ suffering has become theoretical for many of us. We may undertake our Lenten prayers, fasting and almsgiving out of habit without fully appreciating how and why they are supposed to bring us closer to Christ.

Until now. The circumstances we live under in a COVID-19 world present incredible opportunities for us to deepen our understanding of Christ’s suffering and expand our love for one another. 

We can do that by twinning our sufferings with those of Jesus, using what we’re going through to capture a glimpse of His experience and offering our sufferings up to Christ’s cross.

Like Jesus, we are in the Garden of Gethsemane, fearful of impending anguish and death all around us.

Jesus was arrested, and so are we. We may be bound by anxiety. We may feel angry, frustrated or bored by being confined to our homes or are too afraid to go out.

Jesus was stripped of His garments. What might have helped us to cope with stress — visits with friends, trips to the mall, even attending Mass or praying in the Adoration chapel — has been stripped away from us. Many have lost their jobs and face serious financial hardship as a result.

Some people are undergoing persecution, being blamed for starting or spreading the virus. Health care professionals are working to the point of exhaustion, putting their lives on the line.

Jesus bore these and much more intense torments with a key difference — He chose these sufferings of the cross out of love for us so that we may live. We, too, can choose to deepen our love for one another in a COVID-19 world.

The distractions that kept us from developing relationships with one another are largely gone. Outside of work, homeschooling and trips to the grocery store, we’re not going anywhere. We have the mental, psychological and spiritual space to spend time with one another, to edify, encourage, explore.

Families can sit down at the dinner table together. We can phone or video teleconference with friends and relatives we’ve been too busy or tired to connect with in the past. We can reach out to elderly neighbours, offering to pick up groceries and supplies for them. We can donate food to community organizations, where people struggling with poverty or unemployment can go to feed their families.

Indeed, for all the bad news, we’re seeing heartwarming examples of compassion, charity and kindness.

Not only can we love others by what we do, but also, what we don’t do.

We must fight off the panic that causes us to stockpile food, supplies and medicines that leave vulnerable people without access to what they need.

We must try as much as possible to stay home and abide by other measures designed to halt the spread of the virus.

This new freedom from busyness allows us to spend time with Jesus, getting to know Him through Bible reading, prayer, reflection and online information. Thanks to technology, we can “attend” Mass and even engage in “Eucharistic Adoration.”

The COVID-19 world has much to teach us, if we open our hearts and minds to learn the lessons. Things like: don’t take anything, or anyone, for granted; don’t procrastinate, as the opportunity to do something or go somewhere might be gone very quickly; develop a new appreciation for Mass and the sacraments; and most of all, when the activities and distractions of this world are stripped away, what remains is love: God’s love for us, our love for God, and the commandment to love one another.

Sometimes, it takes a pandemic to teach us what is really important.

(Majtenyi is a public relations officer who specializes in research communications at an Ontario university.)

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