If you haven’t read the Holy Father’s Urbi et Orbi message, read it immediately! It is an amazing reflection on the Gospel of Mark 4:35-41 and the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Earth, Our Boat
We are all on the same boat. Confronted by a global pandemic, an enemy who does not discriminate, we must stand together. The virus does not care about our culture, race, income, or any other characteristic; it infects all. Therefore we too must drop our prejudices. We cannot save ourselves if we do not strive to save all. The virus will use the infection of those for whom we care little to reach those for whom we care deeply. Either we rise together, or we fall together because we are all in the same boat. It seems this message has been slowly sinking into the hearts of people. In the past week, we have witnessed a true miracle, politicians agreeing! Even in a time of deep divide in the USA, we are witnessing politicians united and occasionally complementing one another. The pandemic, which first stole hope from us, is now giving rise to greater hope. It has forced us to see our common humanity shared in a common home. If only we would carry these new insights with us after the crisis ends.
Revelation and COVID-19
Pope Francis sees in the pandemic a revelatory quality. It has stripped us of the pseudo-reality we have built around us. The crisis has destroyed the illusion of our self-sufficiency. It will not allow us to drown ourselves in mindless entertainment, frivolous pursuits, or false independence. We are now facing the truth: we need one another, we need to confront reality. For so long, we have anesthetized ourselves to the world. We pursue whatever our disordered passions desire without the least thought for those around us. Forced into quarantine and social distancing, this is no longer an option. We now experience silence and loneliness. This new situation is a struggle. Because we have so long avoided the silence, we do not know how to deal with it. Silence makes us experience our mortality. It makes us look into the depths of our being. Silence is a frightening experience to the spiritually immature. Yet it is also a great opportunity. We can rediscover the truth and grow in the spiritual life. The pandemic is a time to choose the good. It is a time to let go of our old certainties and confront the pandemic of sin and evil, which had infected the world because the world was sick long before we were.
Like the disciples in the boat, we may think God is asleep and does not care for us. As Pope Francis points out, however, he does care. God is not truly asleep. He is offering us the opportunity to have faith. The accusation that Jesus is asleep, “shake[s] Jesus,” according to the pope. Jesus cares more than anyone. God is drawing us deeper into the mystery of himself and the mystery of our existence. Contrary to our initial reaction, there is no need for fear; we have the cross. In our common boat, the cross is our anchor holding us steady. The cross is our rudder directing us along the journey. The cross is our hope and challenges us to transform this moment. It calls out to us to grow in charity and sacrifice our lives. It calls us again to hear the most joyful message, “He is risen and lives by our side!” We are never alone. The risen Jesus Christ always stands beside us, drawing us towards the Kingdom of God. Turning to him will open our hearts and make room for God’s creative Spirit to surprise us.
The Holy Father’s Prayer
Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies, and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak, and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: ‘Do not be afraid’ (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, ‘cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us’ (cf. 1Pet 5:7).