Difficult times can bring out the best and the worst in us. It is in our response to difficult times that we witness to the world what we really believe. It is in difficult times that we can find out for ourselves who we truly are.
We find ourselves in difficult times because of the Coronavirus. People with non-essential jobs find themselves without work and, for many, that means without pay (St. Cajetan is the patron saint of the unemployed). On the other side, medical and health care workers find themselves overworked (I think of St. Luke and St. Raphael among patron saints for health care workers). We are told to practice social distancing to “flatten the curve” to minimize the spread of the Coronavirus so that our medical system can handle it. Now, several states in the United States as well as other places in the world are on lock down. Thus, we may find ourselves without in-person support from our friends and family.
What is our response individually?
Is it bringing out the worst in us? Here I wonder about the empty shelves in the stores. With being told to stay home, we need to stock up on groceries. That is a smart response but how much do we need to stock up? Are some people hoarding? I don’t know. If one is buying up supplies to sell to others at a higher price, I point to the Seventh Commandment, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15, Deuteronomy 5:19). We must remember, “The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2402).
However, if we see someone leaving the store with a lot of one or two items, we should not assume their intent is “stealing” in the sense I mentioned above. While buying up supplies with the intent to sell at higher prices is a sign of “greed“, some people may be motivated by “fear”. Fear can be a powerful thing. We don’t know what is going to happen with the Coronavirus. The unknown can bring fear (and loss of a sense of control). One might go to the store to get groceries, see the shelves nearly empty, and, out of fear, feel they need to buy more before it is all gone to make sure they have enough. We pray that we all hand our fears over to God.
I have heard one or two stores of people fighting in the stores over what is left on the shelves. I hope this isn’t happening much but it can be part of fear.
Lastly, in terms of bringing out the worst in us (and related to fear), our anxiety levels may be high. I admit one of the things that causes me anxiety is how directives are changing often. This happens in the church as we went from practicing extra precautions (like suspending distribution of the Precious Blood in the Cup and the Sign of Peace) to the suspension of public Masses. We see it in general society as more and more people are told not to go to work and non-essential businesses have been shut down. We must remember God will get us through this.
With God in mind, I turn to how the Coronavirus crisis can bring out the best in us. With regards to the empty shelves in the stores, I think things are beginning to calm down. I was in a store yesterday for two items and found the store calmer than a couple of days ago.
I see it bringing out the best in us in the way some people have shown concern for others. This can be as simple as checking on elderly neighbors (while practicing social distancing). I see it in medical workers and emergency workers who work hard to care for the sick despite the risk of becoming sick themselves.
I also see it bringing out the best in us in people’s response to the suspension of Masses. I think of people who have said to me they never would have guessed we won’t ever be able to go to Mass. We took it for granted that Mass and the Eucharist would always be available. People who don’t normally go to daily Mass have told me they have started watching daily Mass on TV or online (other Prayer Resources) People are indeed turning to God!
As a priest, I am able to say Mass privately. However, I say it not just for myself. While you cannot join me for Mass, I offer the Mass for all of you. You are very much on my mind (even teary eyed) as I celebrate Mass.
We don’t know how long the Coronavirus crisis will last. What we do know is that God is eternal. God will always be with us. Nothing can take God away from us. I pray that we all have the grace we need to bring out the best in us to be good Christian witnesses to the world that needs God.