By Fr. Paul Abbass
Over a long period of time and through many personal experiences I have come to the conclusion that there is always something to be learned from the good and the bad circumstances and situations we meet along the way.
Lately I have been asking myself what we can learn from the challenges presented by the the Covid virus.
I learned two related things: first; I learned that by working together and sharing in the sacrifices necessary we can face this particular challenge. Secondly I learned that working together and sharing in the necessary sacrifices is not easy; in fact, it can be extremely difficult.
Which in turn caused me to ask myself why is this so; especially as in many instances we heard people speaking of the many positive outcomes of the experience of the last couple of months. People spoke about the benefit of having more time with family, of the joy that comes from reaching out to others and being more considerate of the needs of family, friends and total strangers. Others spoke about rediscovering their love of fishing and on my street there seemed to more than regular numbers of young families out for bicycle rides together or enjoying a walk with their children. There seemed to be a sense of accomplishing something important by working together to make this situation not just a time of sacrifice; but, as well a time of satisfaction in coming to realize that we were helping and contributing to the whole. And yet, there is almost a sense of panic when people consider that there might be a resurgence in cases and the need to return to the practices that helped to keep us safe.
Working toward the common good for a worthy cause is rewarding; but in some ways it goes against much of what our culture has promoted over the last few decades. In so many ways we have become accustomed to living the lifestyle of “what feels good for me is all that matters.” In fact, perhaps the real blessing that arose out of Covid-19 is the reminder to all of us that we are not just individuals; we are a people who recognize their need for others. At the same time we may have also been reminded of the value of considering the needs of others ahead of our own wants and needs.
I believe there is a fear among many that once things return to normal (whatever that is or looks like), that we will lose that sense of community and caring for others. Perhaps this is a good time to recall that there is a faith imperative that invites us to keep in mind the social message of the Gospel. Central to this message is that we are co-responsible for one another and for the earth. This conviction calls on us to see in others the image of our creator and to treat others with the reverence and awe that we profess to hold for our God.
The events of these last few weeks in the United States serve as yet another reminder of the importance of remembering that what affects others affects us. We could be smug in these days and think that this could not happen in our neighbourhood or country; but the truth is that discrimination and prejudice touches all of our communities and therefore all of us have a responsibility to consider our own attitudes towards those who are different from us.
There is much to learn from the recent events that have unfolded throughout our world. I know that they have provided me with a good deal to think about and much that has challenged the truth about myself and my attitudes towards others. I hope it may do the same for you.
Fr. Paul’s reflection was featured in This Month in the Diocese, July 2020. Get your copy here.