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Francis Campbell: We have the time … let’s use it well

  • April 24, 2020

I can’t find time for that.

COVID-19 has laid bare many of the popular excuses we use to appease ourselves for skipping the things we know we ought to be doing.

I don’t have time to really talk with or be with family. I don’t have time to exercise properly, to eat right, to read a good book, to go to church, to visit an elderly relative, to have a proper night’s sleep, to pat a pet or even to say a prayer.

Australian-born best-selling author and inspirational Catholic speaker Matthew Kelly, in his book The Rhythm of Life, puts it this way: “It begs the question, doesn’t it? What are we all too busy doing? For the most part we are too busy doing just about everything, that means just about nothing, to just about nobody, just about anywhere.”

Amid busy lives of doing just about everything that means just about nothing came a global pandemic, an indiscriminating virus that doesn’t care what we are busy doing, or how we value or use our time.

All of a sudden, we have time. We have been told to stay at home, to social distance from others, not to gather in groups, basically not to do all the busy-life things that mean just about nothing. Now, we have the time to do the things we ought to have been doing when we deluded ourselves into thinking we just didn’t have the time to do them.

Even now with so much time, many of us are still incapable of doing the things we claimed we never had time to do. We are guilty of intentionally or subconsciously slipping into — and now prolonging — what Kelly describes as an episodic mode of living.

“In a soap opera, there is always something happening, but nothing ever really happens,” Kelly writes.

Every episode, Kelly says, people use others, talk about one another and plot and scheme. Still, nothing meaningful happens. These episodic lives are filled with superficialities but the characters remain restless and miserable. When the days of our lives become like that, Kelly says we become depressed, disillusioned and devoid of hope.

Kelly says hope lies in purpose. He says even if we have money, status, fame, power and possessions, “lasting happiness and fulfillment are not the by-products of doing and having.”

Meaning and purpose are found by becoming the best version of ourselves.

The pursuit of meaning and purpose may not be at the top of the priority list for people suffering from COVID-19, whether it is manifested in illness, the loss of a loved one, a job loss, a closed business or mental and emotional distress tied to self-isolation.

In Nova Scotia, that fear and anxiety was greatly exacerbated April 19 by an overnight arson and shooting rampage that left at least 22 dead, culminating in a lengthy police hunt and the death of the single suspect a mere 15-minute walk from our home.

Archbishop Anthony Mancini of the Halifax-Yarmouth diocese told viewers in a video-streamed Mass that the barricaded feeling and fear that Nova Scotia residents are experiencing is similar to what the apostles felt before Jesus, resurrected, appeared to them.

“Overcoming fear and every other evil that darkens our lives is the divine mercy and it is the great consequence of the Resurrection,” Mancini said. “However, ‘peace be with you’ is not a mantra, nor are these words a magical formula that will suddenly drive fear away.”

Mancini said the doubt of the apostle Thomas “reminds us that the greeting of Jesus must be accompanied by a personal encounter with Jesus,” that can drive away fear, doubt and sinfulness.

The purpose in life, the goal to become the best version of ourselves, is wrapped up in that personal relationship with God.

Shackled by the limitations of staying home, isolating and social distancing, maybe we finally have the time to pursue that purpose.

“God’s divine mercy is doing something amazing with all of us right here and right now,” Mancini said. “Perhaps He is liberating us from all that is baggage and non-essential.”

(Campbell is a reporter with the Halifax Chronicle Herald.)

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