As the global number of infected people with the COVID-19 virus continues to increase, there is need for prayer and faith. But also, there is need to heed the words of health authorities everywhere: Citizens, stay at home.
Stay at home!
I genuinely fell in love with this phrase because, first and foremost, it is mainly a biblical phrase! To begin with, according to Sacred Scripture, there isn’t a securer place on earth as one’s home. The Holy Spirit helped me realise this when I leafed through the revealed Word of God itself. In the book of the prophet Isaiah we come across a very interesting reference concerning both the importance and the sacredness of a home. Thus, says the Lord: My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places (Is 32:18).
From this biblical quotation we can appreciate already the cosiness that only a home can offer. First, a home offers peace. Obviously, this peace can be one of mind and heart. A home manages to offer a defence against one’s enemy who always resides outside it and ready to attack those it defends with its walls. And, with that homely security there is quiet or, in other words, the right environment where one can pray and worship God. Can we not say then that the home offers the Shabbat, the day of rest from work and worries so as we can concentrate more in the Lord and find our repose in Him alone? If that is the case now I can understand why our brothers and sisters in faith, the Jewish people, cherish such a big and devout love in their hearts for their homes. After all, if God himself chose a human being, in the person of Solomon, to build for Him His house and His courts, does this fact already not show how God always wanted to be at home with us (see 1 Chr 28:6)? The Shekinah is an attempt on God’s part to dwell amongst us thanks to His glorious and divine presence.
If we just go to the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we find a very moving way of how God chose to be at home with us, men and women. The implication of Genesis 3:8 is that God used to walk with man and woman. The unfortunate thing that took place and decidedly impeded man and woman’s communication with God was sin. By disobeying God, man and woman could not feel at home with God anymore. Genesis 3:8 is so explicit about this communication barrier when it says: And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Their betrayal of God’s trust and friendship made them not only estranged from being at home with God but also with each other and themselves, as Gen 3:9-19 powerfully demonstrates.
Furthermore, this challenging coronavirus situation is bringing us in touch with many things we usually got alienated from before this devastating scenario started to unfold. In the lockdown yes, there is fear. Yes, there is isolation. Yes, there is panic buying. Yes, there is sickness. Yes, there is even death. Having said that, they say that in Wuhan, China, you can once more hear the birds sing. They say that after just a few weeks of quiet, the sky is no longer thick with fumes, but blue and grey and clear. They say that in the streets of Assisi people are singing to each other across the empty squares, keeping their windows open, so that those who are alone may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the west of Ireland is offering free meals and delivery to the homebound. A young woman is busy spreading flyers with her number through the neighbourhood so that the elders may have someone to call on. Churches, synagogues, mosques and temples are preparing to welcome and shelter the homeless, the sick, and the weary.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting. All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way. All over the world people are waking up to a new reality. To realize how big we really are when we open ourselves to God, our home! To know how little control we really have. To what really matters. To love.
So we pray and we remember that yes, there is fear but there does not have to be hate. Yes there is isolation, but there does not have to be loneliness. Yes there is panic buying, but there does not have to be meanness. Yes, there is sickness, but there does not have to be disease of the soul. Yes there is even death, but there can always be a rebirth of love. Let us awaken to the choices we make as to how to live now.
Today we breathe and listen. Behind the factory noises of our panic the birds are singing again. The sky is clearing. Spring has come and, yes, we are always encompassed by love. Let us open the windows of our soul and though we may not be able to touch across the empty square…. let us sing! Let us return to our home! Let us appreciate what God has created for us! Let us ardently return to His unfathomable mercy in order to teach us how to reach out to one another in this hour of darkness! As Pope Francis wisely teaches us in his catechesis of April 27 2016 when he spoke about the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37):
Let us come to the core of the parable: the Samaritan, namely the despised man, the one whom no one would have bet on, and who also had his own commitments and things to do, when he saw the wounded man, he did not pass by like the other two, who were linked to the Temple, but “he had compassion” (v. 33). Thus the Gospel says: “He had compassion”, that is, his heart, his emotions, were moved! This is the difference. The other two “saw”, but their hearts remained closed, cold. While the Samaritan was in synchrony with the very heart of God. Indeed, “compassion” is an essential characteristic of God’s mercy. God has compassion on us. What does this mean? He suffers with us, he feels our suffering. Compassion means “suffer with.” The verb indicates that the physique is moved and trembles at the sight of the evil of man. In the gestures and deeds of the Good Samaritan we recognize the merciful acts of God in all of salvation history. It is the same compassion with which the Lord comes to meet each one of us: He does not ignore us, he knows our pain, he knows how much we need help and comfort. He comes close and never abandons us. Each of us, ask and answer the question in our heart: “Do I believe? Do I believe that the Lord has compassion on me, just as I am, a sinner, with many problems and many issues?” Think about that and the answer is: “Yes!” But each one must see in his heart whether he has faith in this compassion of God, of the good God who draws close, heals us, caresses us. If we reject him, he waits: he is patient and is always beside us.
St Joseph, whose feast we recently celebrated, is the model of what it means to be a family person, to stay at home. By praying to him he will surely give us a helping hand to make our stay at home the most fruitful and beneficial one possible. As St Pio counsels us: Ite ad Joseph. Go to Joseph with extreme confidence, because I do not remember having asked anything from St. Joseph, without having obtained it readily.
Let us return back to our home, our heart, our Trinitarian God!