I pretty much feel like the most horrible person in the world to admit that I am almost grateful to the coronavirus. For a while, anyway, there are more stories, news reports, announcements, and information on the virus than the other news stories that we have encountered in the past few years. Public rudeness, hatred, misogyny, shootings, wrong-way drivers, finger-pointing, name-calling, tweets, Facebook posts, and what have you seem to have had a monopoly on our discussions. The media also spurs it on until suddenly there’s this new threat.
Don’t get me wrong; I have empathy and sorrow for those who have contracted the virus and/or have lost loved ones to it, no matter where on earth those losses have taken place. I pray for the medical and response teams, caring for the ill and the dead, at the risk of their own lives. I sympathize with those quarantined either in their homes, hospitals, shelters, or wherever. I regret the loss of the opportunity to go to church, receive the sacraments, and find the comfort that worship can bring. I worry about those whose jobs have been put on hold because it brings them in contact with the general populace. Children are losing valuable education time, social events have been cancelled, sports have been curtailed. This threat causes fear and apprehension, such as we in our country have seldom seen.
It isn’t just coronavirus that has us looking uneasily over our shoulders and listening for a sneeze, cough, or panting that could indicate that we’ve been exposed. We fear for our safety, our health, and our well-being in light of social, medical, and educational programs that have been cut. We fear the sight of men, women, and sometimes teens carrying firearms in public just as those same people fear to have their arms taken away, leaving them helpless. We are frightened, anxious, and almost apathetic with so much going on that we seem to be individually unable to combat, much less defeat.
Those living in Jesus’ time had many of the same concerns, their lands conquered by the Romans. In other parts of the world, there were similar problems with other conquerors. It didn’t do to get too comfortable anywhere, because things could change radically with the direction of the wind. People tried to cure their own illnesses and injuries, sometimes with success, and sometimes with the help of those familiar with the conditions and the herbs and procedures that could possibly help.
In our own time, we rely so much on technology to inform us, help heal and cure us, and to keep us safe. Technology also raises our fears about what could happen and is happening in this crisis as well as others. It seems that which can give us so much hope and promise has given us uneasy feelings, panic, and high anxiety about what could happen.
Jesus healed and cured so many, Jew and Gentile alike. He cured the uncurable, raised the dead, and brought wholeness to the broken. There were undoubtedly others who could do some of the things Jesus could, but they did not do it with the power of God behind it. Even charlatans get lucky once in a while.
When we worry, get anxious, are in fear, are facing trials and tribulations, we often call on God to help us out. We thank God for successful outcomes, and sometimes curse God when things don’t work out, or someone dies despite all the prayers. We sometimes expect an immediate correction of whatever is wrong while not thinking that God may not do it as quickly as expected, if ever. Sometimes we have lessons to learn from situations, and the causes and the resolutions through patience and practice. God has all the time in the world, so who are we to rush God just because we are in a hurry?
We say we trust God to watch over us and will be with us without our having to do anything other than ask. We also don’t always ask until we get ourselves into situations we are helpless to change or get ourselves out of. Prayer is good and accomplishes a lot, but not always everything needed at the time.
It’s good for us to trust God and feel God will be taking care of us, but we shouldn’t feel we have to test our faith to the point where we fail to take precautions or appropriate steps for ourselves and those we love. Jesus, despite his prayers to be delivered, accepted that he had to face torture and crucifixion. God could have killed the Romans around the cross and rescued His son from such pain and degradation. This was Jesus’s moment of his most complete humanity, feeling separated from God, and facing death. At that moment, some of his most mystical teachings became clearer for us, as we walk and pray our way to the joy of Easter Sunday.
It is good to trust that God watches over, protects us, and will be with us no matter what. But we should not feel we have to test that trust by merely praying and not taking proper and universal precautions. Throughout the current coronavirus situation, God expects us to do simple prophylactic things. Actions such as washing our hands for a full twenty seconds can be timed by internally singing the Doxology, saying the Lord’s Prayer, or even reciting the prologue to the Constitution of the US. Using Kleenexes or even the bend of one’s elbow to cover a sneeze or cough can avoid airborne contamination. Saying “Bless you!” when someone sneezes can be more helpful and kind for both you and the one who sneezed than running away or a gasp of horror. Remember, a sneeze could be from an allergy or a common cold as much as from the virus.
I think I may try greeting others as Charles, Prince of Wales, has done recently. The sign of namaste, with hands folded as if for prayer and a slight bow, represents recognition, honor, courtesy, politeness, respect, and gratitude to the other person. I’ve done it in the grocery store when I’ve run into Hindus and even Sikhs, and I frequently get a return bow with a big smile. Maybe it won’t prevent coronavirus, but it will bring a sense of sharing a blessing with those from another culture. God approves of gifts of the heart.
God bless. Namaste.
Image: Praying Hands, Albrecht Durer (1478-1528). Found at Wikimedia Commons