|Will you strive for justice and peace among all people,
and respect the dignity of every human being?
I will, with God's help.
From the chaos of our current situation, I'm feeling a call to action. But that call feels more like an effort to reconnect with my roots -- the basics of my call as a baptized Christian.
I've struggled in the last few days with whether the message of EPF ought to be put on hold, especially since my ability for in-person visits with parishes is about to be curtailed. Plus, I was noticing that my own bandwidth seems to have contracted -- it is as if the only thing I have space for is worry about the containment of this COVID-19 coronavirus, and how I can keep myself and those I hold dear, especially those at risk, safe and healthy. Surely, everyone else is having this same concern?
On the other hand, I think the direness of this social distancing and quarantine might create in us a capacity for some new compassion, some new advocacy. I'm particularly remembering our EPF visit to Gaza last October. My Palestinian friends there live in lockdown. They have no freedom of movement. Clean water is scarce. Access to electricity is randomly denied to them. Their sewage treatment plants have been destroyed by Israeli bombs. Services are limited. There is no work for many. Decent healthcare is scarce. They are shot at and bombed. Two million people, half of them under the age of 18, caged in a 25 mile by approximate five mile strip of land, with no end to the occupation in sight. To live there is to live in perpetual terror and scarcity.
Here, the store shelves are momentarily without bottled water and toilet paper. The lucky among us are asked to stay in our comfortable homes for a few weeks, with power, reliable internet access, heat and air, and running water. Many of us have access to health care if we do get sick. Of course, not everyone will weather this plague without lasting effects -- people will die or may suffer ongoing problems even if they get sick and recover; small business will struggle or close; people will lose their livelihoods. For all of them -- for all of us -- I have great compassion. But I am wondering if in this moment we can also find a place of compassion for and connection to the human beings to whom we have pledged to God we will respect, and strive for their justice and peace. And, having found that compassion, can we take steps to make that connection a permanent part of our prayer life and advocacy.
To be sure, you don't have to look to the other side of the globe to find people needful of your prayers and action. I'm thinking of those who have lost loved ones to senseless gun violence -- a child, a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a dear friend -- or who have been shot themselves. I'm thinking of those who are condemned to die at the hands of a racist, retribution-driven, corrupt criminal justice system. I'm thinking of those still locked in for-profit cages for the crime of wanting a safe life of freedom in our country. I'm thinking of those living in the midst of the ravages of war. I'm thinking of those without a safe home, adequate health care, or meaningful work. I'm thinking of those disenfranchised in any way because they have been labelled "other," despite the abiding truth that there is no other -- only us.
My prayers are with all of you in this hard, uncertain, scary time. If I'm looking for Jesus to be with me during this pandemic, I know I will find him right where he always stands -- with the oppressed, the sick, the outcast, the lonely, and the prisoners. I say thank God that this outbreak is happening during Lent -- a time when many of us were already flexing our heart muscles in an intentional way to reconnect with the Fount of our Being. Please join me in praying, studying, and taking action to do the work we are called to do.