History at this time in the world is being marked by the Covid-19 phenomenon. A pandemic that we can actually call an “invisible enemy” that has caused victims and much suffering all around the world. This has forced authorities and scientists to make people all over the world sensitive to the order of “staying at home”. This order underlines the consequences of social isolation that is taking place in about forty countries. The situation is very demanding given that human beings are, par excellence, “essentially relational”. We live in an era in which one to one social relationships at every level (work-related, educational, liturgical, even in families) demand a new form to be expressed and even the moments of the Eucharistic Celebration are determined mainly by means of virtual communication. From this perspective, many questions arise: what challenges does the Covi-19 phenomenon awake regarding fortifying human bonds in the world? Could this event bring the world to a faith crisis? How can the Eucharist call us to endeavour to project human promotion under the signs of this pandemic?
This time of crisis challenges human beings in their search for a meaning to their existence from a logic of alterity. Stay home – Save lives, to remain at home implies to save other human beings. It is about a dynamic of creativity, new perspectives, new visions about the art of living together and fraternity, with the goal of overcoming moments of anguish, tension and human fragility.
This time of Covid-19 marks a barren road in recent history during this XXIth century, characterized by anguish, insecurity and panic, among other feelings. This traumatic situation could, without a doubt, bring about questioning the existence of God and his own attributes. A friend of mine, in fact, asked me this question: “Why has the all-powerful God allowed the Coronavirus to override the capacity of scientists and health promoters to prevent the killing so many people around the world?
The answer was that Covid-19 is not the first pandemic that humanity has known. For example, the flu pandemic of 1968 caused more than a million deaths in the whole world. Even then God, in his relationship with humankind, gives the grace to act in favour of life. Reason takes one to reflect not only about the links, that means, the relation not only between people but also with the environment. It is important hence to remember the call issued by Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato Si” regarding the necessity to look after our common home, deepening ever more the sense of an integral ecology from the relational perspective of human beings. This could be the right moment to generate new persons, a new world and new ways of relating to nature.
The Covid-19 phenomenon, even though could question faith at different levels, cannot bring to a faith crisis or put an end to the Church. On the contrary, it is a time manifesting God because in every moment of trauma, pain and suffering there is a call from God, as the theological conception of Israel exemplifies (Ex 3:7-8). In this sense Jesus’ journey shows that prayer is a guarantee of faith, the Blessed Sacrament Religious would say it is a part of its Congregational mission (cf. Mt 4:1ff.). That is why this time of pandemic has to strengthen this spiritual dimension through a prayerful dynamism as a way of sharing in communion with the victims. A supplication from Psalm 17 comes to mind: “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer” (Ps 17:6)
The social isolation at present is not caused by exclusion due to status, social class or difference between rich and poor but by a need in a time of crisis, which requires reflection about the sense of alterity and communion with the other in need of saving lives. Is it possible to say that it is a moment to try our faith in the mystery of Christ, who in his sufferings took over the history of all humanity? Yes, his victory became concrete at the final moment, believing always in the God of life.
An opinion of theological anthropology refers to the sense of the relationship of human beings (relationship with God, nature and fellow humans). This underlines the sense of alterity as a fundamental human dimension. “To stay home” shows the lack of concrete celebrative moments of life, especially of the sacrament which is “font and summit” of the Church, the Eucharist. In this way, the means of virtual communication reflect the importance of technology even in the celebration of the mysteries of Christian faith.
From the sensitization of all who work for a real human promotion (RL 37), the Eucharist challenges us as Blessed Sacrament religious to discern and reflect, at the appropriate moments, about the art of brotherly coexistence, the need to strengthen the basic human relations in compassion, equality and love, as done by health professionals who risk and give everything in trying to restore the health of the sick.
Ultimately the Covid-19 phenomenon questions us all, showing us that we are all in the same boat (rich, poor, middle class). With this logic, global leaders open new horizons about the great worries of how to foster the economy as the summit of life. A new sense is discovered, challenged by the pandemic. What must flourish, hence, is a “human economy”, understood in the logic of harmony, searching for the common good and authentic relationships which favour life in the world.
Throughout the world, there is a war against an invisible enemy that is not invincible. While health professionals and scientist fight to save lives, the Church must go on its knees, supporting them and imploring to God for the grace so we can all, together, overcome.
Bogota, 6 April 2020
Brother Elibien Joseph, sss
4th year Scholastic