WISDOM IN THE MIDST OF A PANDEMIC
What have you learned from the “Shelter in Place” order? God is always with us, we are never truly alone. In William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, the 44 year old bard wrote as if he were a much older man contemplating approaching death. The imagery at line 4: “Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang” could also symbolize the current state of our world after the imposition of the threatening dilemma of the COVID 19 virus. The once abundant, fulfilling, easy companionship of church fellowship…is now suddenly constricted, practically destroyed. Yes-we can still conjure up the ghosts of our manifold relationships, but ultimately the phone lines and zoom galleries become mocking reminders of our constant isolation. Yes-forbearance is not absolute. Yet the willful forbearance of travel, assembly and human face-to-face contact and the mandated face masks, social distancing and communicating through electronic devices have cut us off from our natural human need for social contact and interaction, from sharing and from maintaining and establishing relationships. Yes, we miss being with our extended families, fellow parishioners, friends, neighbors, associates and even the occasional random stranger that is afforded by free human discourse. It is as if we were the sole survivor of a shipwreck marooned on a desert island where no other, or very few humans, dwell. In order to cope with COVID 19, we appear to have been totally forsaken. Yet, instead, we have been afforded a very special opportunity by this separation, one that will prove to be very short and fleeting. Yes, seemingly, we are totally alone. Yet we are never totally alone because there remains always with us the presence of God’s Peace and the Holy Spirit. Yes, God offers peace in the midst of panic, pandemic and pandemonium. Although we may be confined and physically alone, we are never totally alone because we are always in the presence of God through the Holy Spirit. John 20:21-22 [NRSV] states “‘…Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'” The Lord travels with us, as he traveled with the disciples, although we need not take a single step during our mandated detention.
Although there might not be another person physically in our home, and not another “sheep” in the sheepfold, yet the Good Shepherd still watches over us. And in our solitude, secure in ourselves, we can divine the presence of the Lord. “Be still and know that I am God” states Psalm 46:10 [NSRV]. And in this “luxury” of silence, we can come to know that God is always with us. Through silent reflection, we can perfect our necessary prayer routine. Plus through sincere reflection and intercessory prayer, we can receive direction to live up to the spirit of the Gospels. After all, this is the essence of contemplative prayer as per Matthew 6:6 whereby we are directed to pray in secret in our “inner room” so as to be rewarded by the Father. Also, through silent reflection, we can be grateful for the blessings of this life and God’s love and grace by inviting pleasant images of all the loving people, special events and acts of kindness we have already known as well as reflect on the life lessons learned and our memories of good will and positive examples of those we have known, both living and dead. Yes, we may seem to be alone, yet even in times of enforced loneliness, God is still with us. As promised, in any time of travail or trouble, there also will be the Holy Spirit. We are never truly alone-God is always with us.