Executive Orders: Take Courage
- Today in Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
- Fifth Sunday of Lent
- 29 March 2020
The various authorities have issued orders that have suspended our daily activities to concentrate on the unseen enemy known as COVID-19. The unprecedented nature of these times has plunged us into a kind of “Twilight Zone,” where all our assumptions are being challenged and our conventions altered. Within a brief matter of weeks, the drive toward globalization has been replaced with the immediate necessity of social distancing. Our customs of personal contact and human touch have suddenly become dangerous behaviors. We are suspicious of one another and tend to pull away to establish our safe space. These feelings are some of the regrettable outcomes of the pandemic, but they need not define us or set the agenda into the indefinite future. There is a growing realization that things will never be the same again. The Church has learned some hard lessons over the centuries concerning plagues and wars. We have come through our adversity by the grace of God, but we have also been significantly changed by the experience. The COVID pandemic of 2020 has demonstrated the vulnerability of our open society and the failure of our technology. But that same technology has also connected us with each other in ways we could not have imagined less than a decade ago. This presents us with both opportunity and caveat. As human beings we can stay in touch, but we cannot live our humanity without the sense of touch. This time of deprivation can give us new insights into the importance of the Sacraments and what it means to believe in the presence of God with us – Emmanuel! St. Thomas had to see and touch the Lord in order to believe, not because his faith was weak, but because his faith, like ours, is incarnational. We need the bread and wine to see the Body and Blood! We need the water and the oil! We need the laying on of the hands! We share the apostolic faith with St. Peter: Lord I do believe! Help my unbelief! In going through this experience together as a universal Church, we shall never be the same on the other side of it. Our perspectives and assumptions will have changed. It is largely up to us to determine if those changes will be transformative for better or for worse.
The current sequestration has forced us to fast from the presence of Christ in ways we never would have imagined or predicted. This is the year that the ashes covered the lilies and Lent eclipsed Easter. It is a universal experience we share with the entire world and particularly with other Christians. It is hard for us not to gather for the Eucharist. It is harder still to be barred from doing so. We are familiar with the risk that we take in being disciples of Jesus and sharing his Body and Blood. Our martyrs testify to the importance of the faith we share. This is a different kind of test for us. We must consider the safety of others and sacrifice our own needs. It is an opportunity to teach us humility and recognize that God is God and we are not. The frustration we feel is helplessness and our dilemma is a lack of power. The anger we feel if fueled by fear and the remedy for fear is faith. We can dissolve in these feelings or we can act courageously. Courage is what makes us do the right thing even when nobody else is doing it. Courage is fear that has said its prayers. The kind of courage we need draws its strength from faith, not from bravery or physical power. Let truth and faith, and a humble spirit, give us the courage we need to endure this difficult time, so that when fear knocks at our door…No one is there to answer!