My Culture How the world should change after COVID-19 by Maddy Bass Lately, I’ve been hearing people say things that are reminiscent of “going back to normal,” such as returning to the mundane daily activities of grocery shopping without stockpiling on toilet paper, hugging people, or eating a meal at a local restaurant instead of ordering to-go. It’s safe to say that the world is nostalgic for some sort of normalcy, whether that’s sitting at our favorite coffee shop or favorite pew at Mass. I could name a hundred things I wish to do once everything reopens, maybe things I’ve never done before or things that I miss dearly. This talk of normalcy is one that, I believe, can cause us to comfortably settle into old habits instead of the newness Christ is inviting us into. An abundance of good has happened because of social distancing. The natural world is flourishing. Rivers and oceans are becoming cleaner. Air pollution is decreasing. The everyday hustle and bustle of cities is slowing down. Families have been eating dinner under the same roof again… As we continue to do our part in slowing the spread of COVID-19, we start to see that the world around us is slowly being made new. But we ought to recognize that our own hearts are renewing, too. While this phenomenon has proved itself devastating and confusing, we cannot forget the ways in which this time has served as an opportunity for stillness and growth, allowing space for the Holy Spirit to actively move in our lives. And maybe, by reflecting on everything we’ve learned, we can better understand the need for our faith and hope outside of the COVID-19 pandemic. No Longer Business as Usual For many of us, we witnessed our schools closing and graduations postponed or canceled. We experienced our favorite restaurants and small businesses temporarily shut down. We started watching Mass online, a concept completely unforeseeable to us as Catholics. We FaceTimed our friends, started learning remotely, and probably felt inconvenienced by all of these changes. Whatever our circumstances may be, this experience is not walked alone. And neither is our return back into the “real world.” After Jesus’ Resurrection, the apostles gathered with Him and He said to them, “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Mt. 28:19-20). His disciples had been waiting anxiously in anticipation for Christ’s return after His crucifixion, and when He came back, they were sent to go out into the world with this challenge: to trust in the promises of the Holy Spirit. You can imagine that this was extremely difficult for the apostles. But after Jesus left, the apostles didn’t just sit around. They moved. They loved others. And most of all, they continued to worship with an even greater zeal for their faith. During these past few months of the pandemic, we have been given the same invitation to believe in the Father’s faithfulness, no matter how long the waiting. Just as Christ prepared the hearts of His disciples before His Ascension into Heaven, I think the Lord has been doing the same thing for us by pruning our hearts and strengthening us through dependency on His love. As we move forward, we ought to ask ourselves how we can continue to respond to this call as followers of Jesus. When our worldly distractions resume, how do we continue to cling to our faith and our faith alone? The New Normal A few weeks ago, I was watching Eucharistic Adoration on an Instagram live stream. Never in my 21 years of life would I have ever imagined looking at Jesus through my computer screen, but here we are. As I knelt in front of my bed and in front of the Lord, I started to realize that so much of my prayer has been out of expectation and not seeing these simple, yet unusual, moments as precious gifts. While I have been praying for social isolation to end and for the world to return back to normal, I have forgotten how to be present to the graces God has been pouring into my life right now. Maybe it’s not about returning back to normal. Maybe it’s looking forward to a “new normal,” or the new life that God is preparing us for at this time. We are encouraged to pray for an end to the coronavirus. However, there is a danger in holding onto the expectations that our lives were better before. Our daydreaming about the future or reminiscing about the past isn’t that productive if we aren’t taking into account everything we’ve learned in between. This is not only an opportunity to feel reinvigorated to return to Christ in the Eucharist but to open our hearts to the present moment, and despite the solitude we are experiencing, allow Him to strengthen us as His disciples. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught me not to remain stagnant, but to lean into Christ in this way and the extraordinary life to which He has called me. That is the “new normal.” Saint Josemaría Escriva once said, “When you approach the tabernacle, remember that He has been waiting for you for twenty centuries.” This doesn’t mean that Christ isn’t with us now — Christ is moving right where we are without us even recognizing that He is already working. Our faith should move simultaneously with that hope and trust in God’s boundlessness. He doesn’t want us to return to normal. He wants us to return to Him. When we are allowed to sit in chapels and pray in these sacred spaces again, we can be tempted to come with our previous agendas. But, we aren’t intended to return to Mass the same as we did before COVID-19. Our encounter with Christ in the Eucharist should mean more. Our experience as members of the Body of Christ should look different. When we learn to embrace these sacred parts of our faith — the things that used to be boxes on our checklist — we start to realize that our faith isn’t required, but necessary for our existence, where we become face-to-face with a Love that frees us from the chains of our old habits and sins. As we slowly journey out of the COVID-19 pandemic together, I pray that the Holy Spirit would activate our hearts to set us forward on mission, not backward into normalcy. Go Forward in Love I’ve found myself getting easily frustrated with the echo chamber of negativity that seems to be telling the narrative of the COVID-19 era in which we live. I constantly ask for the world around me to change, but forget to recognize my own opportunity to serve out of love. This ordinary world is made extraordinary by the sacrifice of Christ. Love isn’t just an act anymore — it’s an intentional way of living. While we do not know when we can return partake in the Eucharist again, we can still be witnesses every day to the Sacrifice of the Altar, allowing that Mass — virtual or not — to be our daily offering for someone else. We understand that the greatest commandment to love means to be inconvenienced by someone or something, that because they are a work of the Father, we must care for them anyway. Just as we have been following the recommendations to slow the spread of the virus and preserve the health of our neighbors, our role as the Church is to love God and love others unceasingly and regardless of the circumstances, for the “love of neighbor is inseparable from love for God” (CCC 1878). It is these simple truths that Christ is asking us to carry with us as we move forward: Human contact is precious. Nothing can compare to being in the physical presence of one another. When social distancing becomes a past thought, remember to appreciate the gift of simply sitting with someone. We have a responsibility to care for our health and the health of one another. Some aspects of our health are uncontrollable, and health complications have existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic. These matters should always be taken seriously. The natural world needs attention, too. Our love for creation is not limited to God’s people. As members of the Church, we ought to recognize our role in fostering the gift of nature. Pope Francis reminds us, “you are called to care for creation not only as responsible citizens, but also as followers of Christ.” Cling to the sacraments. These treasures of the Catholic life sanctify us and build up the Body of Christ. Our hunger for the graces of the sacraments should be motivation for us to receive them willingly and often when we are allowed to do so. All life is a gift and should be treated as such. Even the most vulnerable. By living in accordance with the truth that every human life is sacred, we can better serve, love, and pray for one another. Life after COVID-19 doesn’t have to look the same as before. In fact, it won’t. As a good friend once told me, “Now is the time that saints are being made.” If we truly believe that we are all created for and capable of living in sainthood, we will be more inclined and excited to change the world, both with and without a global pandemic. Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash.