We’ve been hearing some dire warnings about a possible resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall and winter. We have also heard about the likely slowness of economic recovery, which can mean continued unemployment, closing of businesses and factories, foreclosures on homes, and negligible or negative returns on investments. Obviously the perspective of Christian hope and balance is called for.
A reassurance is offered by St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans (8:28): “All things work for good for those who love God.” It’s a very comforting thought but likely not one we easily internalize. So it might be helpful to take a look at some of the good that has come and can come from our experience of this pandemic.
Family goods come to mind. We see families necessarily bonded together and even enjoying one another’s presence. Those who have faith are practicing what we have long taught: that the family is the domestic Church and the practice of religion and the teaching of truth must begin there. People have found creative ways to participate in devotions, watch online Masses, and make spiritual Communions.
Instruction has been going on at home. The teachers in our Catholic and public schools are reaching out with imagination and good cheer. But it depends on cooperation and imagination on the homefront, too. The school around the corner from our convent has posted a message that reads: “If you see people talking to themselves this week, they must be having a parent-teacher conference.” That is as it should be. We might recall that teachers and schools act “in loco parentis” — in the place of parents.
Another good is that families are connecting more frequently and conscientiously with their relatives, especially older ones.
There are also neighborhood goods. People are walking, tending their lawns and gardens, playing ball and biking with children usually not seen outside. They are donating with remarkable generosity to food drives. Many are discovering that they can survive with fewer runs to outlets and stores and that they can live reasonably well with less. But they are also aware of how little some have on an everyday basis.
On the civic level, we have seen an upsurge in appreciation for nurses, doctors, EMT’s, police, firefighters, and other first responders. Ordinarily we realize that we depend on them. Now we can see that our lives do. Many areas have also seen a significant decrease in water and air and noise pollution.
That leads to another potential good. Popes and bishops for decades and decades have been warning us about the dangers of materialism, consumerism, and selfishness. In the face of this crisis, we have to admit that our American economy relies on people buying, replacing, buying more, and then having to rent storage sheds. We emit tons of carbon and literally ingest plastics. The ecological chant “Renew, Reuse, Recycle” is a noble one but often ignored. Maybe, as all this subsides, we will think not only of our personal and family purchasing and travel habits but also of the foundations on which the current economy is built. As a result, we may take far greater care of planet Earth and of one another as well.
We have also repeatedly been urged, as followers of Christ, to realize that the stronger and more prosperous have grave obligations to the weaker and more impoverished. St. John Paul II counseled Americans at Yankee Stadium more than 40 years ago: “Give from your substance, not just your abundance.” He meant it as a local, national, and global challenge.
Perhaps the great take-away from this experience will be a growth in both our gratitude and our giving as we discover that we can simplify our lives. That is, after all, what the first Christians were all about as we read the Acts of the Apostles (2:44-45): “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.” The Church doesn’t by any means support Marxism, but it is all-in when it comes to distributive justice and sharing.