We are in the midst of a pandemic. We have not experienced a public health crisis of this magnitude as a nation for over 100 years. In the course of several weeks our lives have been radically changed. Our university is online through the remainder of the semester; employees are beginning to work remotely; public and parochial schools, restaurants, bars and gyms are closed. Last night my home parish in Victoria closed. How can we maintain a sense of spiritual well-being during this time?
For the Christian world, this health crisis has occurred in the middle of Lent. Lent may offer us a helpful way of thinking about this: Lent reminds us of the people of God wandering in the desert for 40 years following their exodus. It was a time of being unsettled, and a time of want. They prayed for food and water; God provided.
Our sisters and brothers of the Jewish faith celebrate the Passover next month. It is a story of deliverance. The psalmist wrote: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.” Psalm 46. So, too, we are confident in God’s strong care during this time.
Our brothers and sisters of the Muslim faith will celebrate Ramadan this spring. It, too, is a time of looking to the Almighty, the Merciful one for sustenance. It is also a time for sharing what one has with others each evening as the fast is broken at the iftar meal.
We have entered our own desert experience. We have already seen grocery shelves stripped of basics: soup, hand sanitizer and paper products. People are anxious. However, we can draw strength from one another and from our religious traditions.
For Christians the end of Lent leads us to the paschal mystery and the celebration of Easter. What does this say to us? After death comes life. This pandemic will pass, and we will celebrate when that happens. For now, we are in the desert. Seek to encourage one another, care for one another, and know that God will provide.