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Time Outside Time

Where does one begin, as we sit where we sit right now?  Two weeks ago, we watched with interest as Covid-19 continued to spread.  I, ashamed as I am to admit it today, was one of the naysayers – ‘the media is blowing this out of proportion.’  Yet, now here we are, a country – nay a world as there seems not to be one country in the world that has not been affected – watching, waiting, hoping, despairing, anxious.  We are a world in angst.

On this coming Sunday, the fourth of Lent, we will be unable to gather with our communities of worship to pray together, arguably at a time when we would most want to.  Yet listen to the responsorial psalm this Sunday: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”  This psalm, used often at funerals to bring comfort to those grieving, could not have come at a better time in our liturgical calendar.  Coincidences, I have heard it said, are God’s way of remaining anonymous. Maybe not so anonymous after all. 

“Who sinned,” we hear in the Gospel from John.  Who did sin, we wonder?  Because even though we know, scientifically and theologically, that Covid-19 has nothing to do with sin, ours or anyone else’s, many of us still go there.  We want … we need to have an explanation, and the simple explanation – that sickness happens, and that the travelling world we are today aides and abets the passing on of our contagious viruses – is not one we are prepared to accept.  This is clearly evidenced by the thousands who continued to travel as concerns around the spread of
Covid-19 were rising. 

“Night is coming when no one can work,” the Gospel continues.  Our son Marc, works (or better stated, worked, and hopes to again) at Casino NB.  I write this the day after Casino NB has temporarily suspended all operations per direction of the NB government.  Schools and day-cares are closed for at least two weeks, businesses across the country have closed – some ordered to, some choosing to.  Marc is one of many who has been laid off because of these closed businesses or reduced business, as we struggle to contain the spread of this disease in our part of the world.  He expresses, with his constant, repetitive questions, expressions of anxiety, puzzling through a situation he cannot understand or accept on any level, what many of us feel:  What is going to happen now?  How long will this last?  And a culture which is not used to being unable to find the answers to all their questions, must accept, however unwillingly, that we don’t know. 

The same God who tells us “night is coming when no one can work” also responds “neither this man nor his parents sinned.”  “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty … faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” (Anne LaMott) Right now we are unable to do anything but live in the mess, the discomfort, the unknowing – doing our part to ‘flatten the curve,’ accepting the challenge of being still, being home, being safe, being patient.  God is with us in this also the psalmist assures us.  Iconic songwriter Leonard Cohen sang, “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” (Anthem, 1992).  And so we wait … yet again … for the light.

Ellen Bennett, Archdiocese of Moncton Office of Faith Development

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