I felt a wave of sadness as I read the lectionary texts this morning. It began with the first line of the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (4:32-37).
The community of believers was of one heart and one mind, and no one claimed that any of their possessions were their own, but they held everything in common.
Immediately images flashed across the screen of my mind, videos from yesterday’s news of demonstrations in Pennsylvania against the closure of all gathering places in the state: factories, offices, restaurants, beaches – everywhere that people might congregate. They were not peaceful demonstrations but angry protests against what people saw as government attempting to take away the freedoms on which our country was founded. I was appalled to see the majority of those gathered without masks in close crowds and automatic rifles at the sides of some people who were waving American flags as well.
Where is the sense of the common good in those pictures? I live in New York State, three miles from the border from Pennsylvania and 175 miles from that state capital – as the crow flies and from where the wind blows. We have been diligent to assure no spread of COVID-19 and all of our efforts may be undone by yesterday’s activities, actually taking place in many cities across the country.
As I write this I am conflicted because I am also aware of the difficulties facing people who have lost their jobs and who have received no financial help from the government thus far. I understand the frustration that builds every day because of the restrictions placed on us – of travel, of visiting loved ones, of wondering how long we will have enough food to eat. And then I begin to think of the generosity of nurses and doctors and bus drivers and first responders of all kinds who put themselves in danger each day to preserve life and the common good in service to those in need.
It is a sad and frustrating and unsettling time – not just in our country this time but in the whole world. It will take a mighty effort for us to wake up, to step up to a higher plane of consciousness, equal to the challenges we face now, especially those that call us to greater care for life than for anything else.
Are we equal to the challenge? It is not something we can do alone. It is counterintuitive that now we are told to stay away from others – at least 6 feet way. Can we survive this without physically connecting, starved of hugs as we are? It will take a monumental effort to move toward “one heart and one mind” in this complex world of ours. But it is the only world we have.
We will survive together or we will not survive at all. How do you propose that we “step up?”