Oftentimes, Americans would like to boast of ourselves as the most powerful, richest, cutting-edge, and anything else that can define us as the best. We often think that we are the best of everything and anything in comparison to the world, yet that image is simply an impressive and empty shell of self-boast and praise. It often takes a crisis, just like what we are going through with the coronavirus outbreak, to show that we are very broken. When our society and the individuals within our own society are being challenged, many have chosen the path of self-preservation instead of helping others. Many did not stand united, but very divided, driven by fears, hysteria, and even paranoia, toward the point where they cannot trust anybody. We have seen images and videos of people pushing, pulling, and fighting for toilet papers, hand sanitizers, and bottled waters. Charity and its important virtues of compassion and kindness seem to cease to exist. It is ironic to see, too, that those who were so vocal in caring for the earth and others, talking much about compassion, kindness, and love were often the people who were in line taking as much as they can from the shelves.
For a nation that often prides itself as standing united and strong, crises often tell us that we are not. Oftentimes, when a crisis hits, looting, violence, robbery, and the worst of human actions tend to happen as we turn against one another. Nevertheless, at the most basic level of humanity, we all need to remember that a society cannot exist unless its members choose to go beyond themselves to will and care for the goods of others. A society can only exist when individuals come together, willing to sacrifice their conveniences and comforts for the good of all, else we are only a big circle of unhealthy codependent people who like to use nice words and have nice ideologies until something dramatic happens and when others are no longer deemed as good for us. When we look deep down within our very own nation, we begin to see the ugly truth that we have not really been united, caring, loving, compassionate, caring, or kind, for many only come together and act like we like each other because we needed something from one another.
When crises like this one hit, we can see that our social fabric is so thin and fragile, easily tear apart and broken because we have not really known, care, and been mindful of our neighbors and others who are around us. Many people have only been faking it, looking and acting nice with one another in a grand party of life but really do not know or care for each other at all, because everyone is busy looking their best, trying to manipulate the other to pervade a particular image, ideology, item, or thing but one could care less for those who are around them. I am sad to say this but what we are seeing is the classic definition of sophistry and pharisaical actions. In a sophist world, words mean nothing because they have no substance nor can give life; they only exist to sound nice, to attack or defend, or to pervade one’s desired messages. Our world is pharisaical, too, because what many have done were just for self-justification and praise, to use the law and faith for our own goods and benefits instead of really giving testimony to the truth.
It is easy to say that we are something, can do this or that when things go right and according to our ways; yet, it is often in times of trial and hardship, suffering and crisis that our true character is shown. Furthermore, it is when life is trying and hard that our true character is continued to be formed and faith strengthened as well. It oftentimes takes a crisis for us to get back to what is basic, ordinary, and simply human by grounding ourselves in the extraordinary faith that is found in our relationship with God. With everything that is going on, we are uncomfortably reminded that society is not just built on politics, ideologies, and talks, but the true sacrifices of men and women of good will to strengthen relationships and will the good our very own society. In times that seem to be filled with extraordinary measures, we are invited — first and foremost — to return to the most ordinary and basic human level that makes us who we are instead of being beastlike.
True characters are revealed when we are taken from our usual routines and comforts, when we can no longer hide behind nice-sounding words and shallow actions to have things our ways. We are shown how we really are deep from within when we can no longer benefit from others and when things do not go our ways. When shallow, casual, or ordinary exchanges, niceties, and usual human means cannot help with the game of manipulative, hedonistic, and benefit-based interactions, this is when true human characteristics and values are revealed.
Hence, as Christians in times of crisis, we are called to do what seems to be so ordinary as disciples of Christ to trust, have faith, and continue to pray as we are called to do. Yet, when hard times hit, these matters seem to be so ridiculous, should be ignored and forgotten when life gets trying. In our immediate, humanistic, and fragile moments, we want to throw out everything that is spiritual. When we do not seem to get what we want or able to solve our problems right away, we stop believing and trusting in God, disregarding what we have been taught to truly hope in His faithfulness and promise. Despair and negativity quickly creep in and we allow them to eat us alive quickly! We tend to give up right away, thinking that God is smiting or has abandoned us. We usually ignore what has been taught through salvation and world history, what had happened in the past and in our very own lives when things were rough. Spiritual amnesia kills our hope because it makes us myopically worried, and since our ego is nothing but a fragile and scared reality deep from within, especially when its shell and facade are removed, it begins to do all that it can to preserve itself at all costs. As with any relationships, love for one another grows do not mature when things go right, it grows during trying times so that those who are involved in the relationships learn to choose one another beyond the hurts, trials, sufferings, and hardships.
In times of trial and hardship, our essential virtues of faith, hope, and charity are so needed. Without these real qualities to ground ourselves in the love of God and neighbors, we have nothing to give except to expect, demand, and do all that we can only for our own goods. To overcome amnesia, we are called to practice anamnesis, which is the real recalling and living in the love of God through the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass, in our very own lives, prayers, salvation and personal history. What the Lord had done for the people in the past and in our lives remind us of who He is, that evil does not have the last words! Even though things might seem to get out of control at times due to human failures, natural defects or outcomes, God is in it all, and He is able to bring goodness out of all situations. Look at what had happened in the past, and perhaps even with our own lifetime! Even though we are impatient and want to see our desired results, to have our creature comforts and normalcy return back to us right away, we are reminded to stand firm in the natural ups and downs of life.
I would like to remind us of St. Ignatius of Loyola‘s two important rules regarding the changing of times and seasons. First of all, we are taught that in time of consolation, when things go well and we still can feel the presence and love of God, we should deepen our roots and give praise, yet knowing that this is not something forever. Just like there are sunny and rainy days, good weather and its many storms, life changes because it is the natural and organic reality, we know, too, that we should prepare for times of desolation. Nevertheless, when we are tested and tried, when things are challenging and hard at times, we know that the storm shall pass. Even though we do not know when, we do know that in times of hardship, it is important to anchor ourselves in the firmness of His faithfulness and love. Even though we might not be able to see and feel the sun and its radiant beams in the storm (which is God‘s love and His grace in spiritual terms), it is important that the sun is never gone. Without the sun and its warmth, the earth would die and be lifeless; in the same way, we would not be able to overcome all of our challenges and hardships without the grace of God silently strengthening us to overcome our trials.
The wise saint reminded us to avoid rash, imprudent, and major life-changing decisions in times of desolation. He called us to stay firm to the decisions, commitments, and graces received from what we have discerned and given to us in times of consolation. While it is hard, we are invited to continue to patiently and prudently discern, pray, reflect, and respond properly with faith-filled virtues and characteristics. We are invited to wait in the Lord through life’s storms and moments of desolation. It is hard and seems so unnatural, yet it is the most basic and ordinary thing that we can do as Christians! Perhaps what seems to be so ordinary and foundational requires our fundamental trust and giving of ourselves in prayer so that faith, hope, and love can grow and mature in trying times.
It is easy to say that we are Christians because we go to church, give to charities, belong to this or that organization, voted for a particular party or candidate, did this and that when things go right and well. However, our words and actions, how we treat and care for others in times of need speak louder when who we are deep from within is truly manifested. Therefore, let us recall and live God‘s faithful, never-failing, and never-changing, and everlasting love as we brace ourselves in this time of crisis. When the temptations of self-preservation and ignorance of other people’s goods are so appealing and, at times, seem to be natural, let us turn to what is important, basic, and foundational in practicing our human and theological virtues. Our true characters are really shown when we are called to put into practice faith, hope, and charity. Simply put, what we have received through faith at Mass, through the Scriptures, and in prayer need to be practiced with how we treat and care for our neighbors, especially those who are easily ignored, forgotten, vulnerable, and abandoned by society and others in times of crisis. To stand firm in God, proactively kind and caring in words and actions are our proper Christian response in a time of crisis like this one.
Peace be with you.