We will never forget the year 2020 as the year of the pandemic! A small virus paralyzed the world!
The last months have been difficult. For a time, all activities were put on hold. We suffered through this confinement in many ways: fear, anxiety, uncertainty, routines disrupted, separation from loved ones, job loss, the realization that our planet is very ill. Some people, became infected and died alone under unimaginable circumstances, followed by a cruel period of grief for the surviving loved ones, who no longer had the support of their loved ones and the community.
For many, it was a time to stop and reflect on the importance of their faith. Some report having prayed more than ever because they needed God’s strength and peace. They couldn’t wait to return to church, in their own faith community. Others found watching mass on television, in the comfort of their home, perfect for them, and still is.
Would it be exaggerating to say that our Church’s structure as we know it is being tested? Are our parishes at a crossroads? During this particularly difficult time, it is more important than ever to bring Jesus’ message to the people who need him the most. Could it be that Pope Francis’ call to go out there is becoming more critical than ever as difficult as it is for us to let go some well-established and familiar structures and practices?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are now restraints in our way of doing things. To find enough volunteers so that the guidelines could be followed, we had to work together. Our different expertise didn’t matter. Has the pandemic forced us to work more closely in order to achieve our goal of keeping everyone safe?
We are very limited in our way of doing things. We have to respect social distancing as well as the other guidelines. This makes it difficult to approach people, to touch them physically. We are very much like the disabled who need to find alternate ways of doing things that other people do without a second thought.
This period of confinement has certainly forced us to stop and concentrate on what is essential in our lives. Will the Spirit guide us so that we can take a good look at what is essential in our Church as well? Do we truly believe that He is working through us during this trying time? Do we actually ask him for guidance in the same way the early Christians did?
The most essential part of our mission as a Church is to be welcoming, to offer forgiveness and love so that the people we interact with can feel God’s love through us. A sincere heart, even with its mistakes and weaknesses, can make Christ’s presence felt. If this is true, it therefore means that it isn’t uniquely through our rituals and structures that we recognize Jesus first. As such, we can continue the Church’s mission even during this difficult period of COVID-19.
The pandemic has put emphasis on our societal weaknesses. We have discovered that essential workers are often the ones who are paid the least. We have realized that the food we eat depends a lot on imported products. We have learned that our elderly do not always receive the care they need and that there is a shortage of personnel.
Yet, the crisis has also highlighted society’s strengths. Our political leaders put aside their differences and worked together for the well being of all New Brunswickers to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They demonstrated resilience, a capacity to adapt and creativity. At the onset of the pandemic, essential workers ignored their fears and continued to serve their communities.
According to a quote attributed to Pope Francis, once the pandemic is over, we can’t expect to do the same things in the same way as we did before. Will society be better or worse? If we look at all the suffering this pandemic has caused…will it have taught us to work towards a just and fair society, a more Christian society? (May 30, 2020 Agence-Presse).
In another message published on June 13, 2020 in the Journal Le Soleil, Pope Francis said that the Church does not have global solutions for the cries of the poor. Our spiritual and material wealth has been put to the test and we realize that we are scared. Confined to our homes, we have discovered the importance of simplicity. We have stopped and understood what is truly important.
My greatest wish is that, after this pandemic, we can genuinely focus on fighting injustices, on becoming one with nature and on working towards greater peace with one another. How do we go about accomplishing such a big task?
Henri J.M. Nouwen (in his book Vivre sa foi au quotidien), says that when he sees all the suffering in the world and his desire to put a stop to it, he realizes that it is important to not let himself become paralyzed by feelings of powerlessness and guilt. We must be faithful to our vocation, doing small things that are asked of us, and feel the joy, satisfaction and peace it brings. It is important to follow the example of Jesus, confident that we are truly capable, through Him, to be a sign of hope.
I encourage you to be this sign of hope in a world disrupted by COVID-19, always looking at what is truly essential in order to come out of this pandemic better than ever before.
Gladys LeBlanc, Social Justice Coordinator, Archdiocese of Moncton