Monday, March 16, 3:21 PM PST
By the time you read this blog, things will likely have changed, and I pray and hope for the better — but it’s quite possible that they’ve grown increasingly difficult. We’re all facing something, unlike anything we’ve ever lived through before. The words “global coronavirus pandemic” are ones I never would have guessed I’d be writing in a blog for Life Teen, but here we are.
Depending on where you are, the impact of the pandemic may look different, but it’s unlikely that you’ve been spared any impact at all. In my area, restaurants and retail stores are shutting down for the most part and the shelves of grocery stores have been emptied. I think the eeriest feeling about all of this is how we have very little sense of what to expect — none of us have lived through anything like this, and the measures being implemented by federal and state officials are slamming our day-to-day life to an alarming halt.
There are a number of ways people are responding to these developments: fear, anxiety, worry, concern, apathy, indifference, panic, stress, sadness, grief, to name a few. And as things continue to develop, I imagine similar reactions will persist for a while. So as we — as an entire world — confront our current situation, we would do well to recommit to the greatest commandment we’ve received as followers of Jesus: to love God and love neighbor.
What is Your Responsibility Now?
Your schools are likely shut down and you’re probably doing a lot more behind screens now because we’ve been directed as a country, and mandated in certain states, to practice social distancing. Maybe establishments in your area have closed or decreased their maximum occupancy to comply with these directives. And while these changes drastically change what your day-to-day looks like, when you cooperate with them, you are responding to Jesus’s commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.
It might not feel or look like what you envision when you hear that command, but the reality is that every individual person now has a social responsibility to help stop the spread of coronavirus, just as we’ve always had a social responsibility to seek the common universal common good due to the “increasingly close ties of mutual dependence today between all the inhabitants and peoples of the earth” (Gaudium Et Spes, 84). It might not seem like a big deal for you to live life as usual — maybe you feel fine and are confident in your immune system’s ability to combat the virus; but you’re putting other people, especially vulnerable people, at risk simply by perpetuating behavior that otherwise seems normal during this time. If you take your call to love your neighbor seriously, that means you’ll take these recommendations seriously and do what you can — especially when it requires sacrifice — to slow the spread of the virus, especially in an effort to protect those most likely to contract it and die from it.
What Does Church Look Like Now?
It’s likely that you will not be able to attend regular Mass or youth group for a few weeks due to group gatherings being suspended in your area. This is tremendously sad. Losing regular access to the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith, the real presence of Jesus Christ, is heartbreaking. But, please know that priests around the world continue to offer the sacrifice of the Mass for the faithful and, even if you can’t see or receive Him, He’s not far off. Let yourself hunger and yearn for the Eucharist during this season when you’re unable to access it as usual.
What it looks like to be Church at a time like this will shift; but at the same time, the reality of what it means to be Church will remain the same. Church was never exclusively about Sunday Mass and donuts — Church is always about loving God and loving neighbor. The Church has always been marked at times of crisis as caring for the most vulnerable and most in need. Early Church communities in Rome were known for taking in chronically ill people and children who were otherwise left in the streets to die. Saint Basil the Great founded the first Christian hospital toward the end of the fourth century. And today, multiple religious orders dedicate their time caring for those who are suffering and have no one else to care for them. All this because we worship a God who healed the sick and called us to do the same.
During this time then, our role as Church is to do that in a number of different ways. First of all, we will be praying for those who are sick and suffering and for those heroic people who are caring for the sick and suffering. Secondly, even if you’re not working in the medical field, you can serve the sick and suffering by practicing those behaviors which will limit the spread of coronavirus. Thirdly, if there is a sanitary way to do so, you can volunteer your services to deliver groceries or essential goods to people in your parish community who are in need.
How Will You Remain Rooted Now?
During this strange time, it’s important to stay rooted in your faith more than ever. With more time at home than you’re used to, building up some type of routine will be helpful, and prioritizing prayer within that routine will make a tremendous difference. Consider including one or some of the following practices:
- Praying with the Sunday Mass readings (maybe even with a virtual small group), using the Summit Resource and/or the Summit Teaching videos
- Joining live for Lectio Live — a live-streamed digital small group on our YouTube channel
- Making a daily act of spiritual communion
- Praying a daily rosary for an end to coronavirus
- Watching a live stream of the Mass
Loving God and loving neighbor will look a little different during this season than it has in the past. It’ll involve a lot more social distancing and a lot fewer liturgical gatherings. But just because it will look different doesn’t mean the commandment has changed. Jesus called us to love God and love neighbor and our commitment to that call is especially crucial at this moment.