It goes without saying that everyone is facing an awful lot of challenges in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Many people have had many different reactions, but it seems like “unprecedented” is a word that keeps coming up in conversation. Old or young, we’ve never been through anything like this, and that is very unsettling.
Whenever anything is that jarring, there’s a spiritual dimension to it. Yes, we’re wondering how we will keep our loved ones healthy, and how we’ll manage a whole host of logistical issues. But we also wonder how we can persevere through this without losing hope. Perhaps we’re even wondering how we can be a source of hope and strength to others.
From that perspective, perhaps it’s providential that this is all happening during Lent. Without over-spiritualizing this crisis or making light of the suffering many are going through, perhaps one way to persevere lies in our traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. So let me offer this for your reflection:
¨ Prayer: There are a whole lot of opportunities for prayer that none of us anticipated a month or two ago. If you find yourself with a little extra time on your hands, perhaps you can use some of that for prayer. If your family is spending more time together in closer quarters than usual, then perhaps you can pray a family rosary, or go to the Bishops’ web site (usccb.org) to pray together with the readings for Sunday Mass. There’s no shortage of intentions to pray for. Pray for those who are sick and those who have lost a loved one. Pray for world leaders to make good decisions, and for health care workers who are putting in long hours. Pray for people who are afraid and anxious, and for those who are losing their income while this crisis persists. And let’s pray for each other, for the people who aren’t with us at Sunday Mass, and for the ones who are.
¨ Fasting: Perhaps you were planning on giving up sweets or Facebook this Lent, but some other fasts have been imposed on you instead. Perhaps now you’re fasting from all the things that are out of stock at the stores. Perhaps you’re fasting from your normal routine or social interactions. Perhaps you’re fasting from busy-ness, or having control over your own schedule. I think our attitude towards these inconveniences can change dramatically if we approach them as Lenten penances.
¨ Almsgiving: We always hope that a situation like this will bring out the best in people. There are certainly plenty of new opportunities to take the focus off ourselves and to serve others instead. I encourage you to keep your eyes open for opportunities to give of your time and resources to help those who are struggling the most. Pay attention to those who are left without food or income, as well as those who are vulnerable and find themselves homebound. There should be many creative ways to help others around us, and there’s no doubt that even small acts of kindness can go a long way at a time like this.
It might sound overly pious to talk about uniting the sufferings of our world to the suffering of Christ on the Cross, but I think that’s what we’re being called to do. We know that Jesus can get us through this because, among other things, He’s been there. I have to imagine that the chaos and anxiety and uncertainty that we’re experiencing right now gives us a glimpse of the chaos and anxiety and uncertainty that the world experienced during His Passion and death. If we can help each other carry this cross one step at a time, then we will find that Jesus is always beside us, making that next step possible.