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A New Way of Living

May 2, 2020

In this new reality called the COVID-19 Pandemic life has turned upside down. This week Denise and I have been able to spend some time walking. Typically we walk from our condo to Knoll-Willow Preserve and back. We are wearing masks or face coverings as we do that. These are indeed unusual and scary times. As we walked on Monday, we came across this mama elk in the meadow. Even in the midst of this new way of living, this mama elk was an instrument of the Spirit telling me, in the words of Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

In today’s Gospel (John 10:1-10) Jesus is teaching his disciples about the Good Shepherd. Many times in the past I have focused on the Good Shepherd as the one who knows our voices, knows our names, and whom we can trust to guide us through our lives. While that is still true, this week I have considered this passage along with Acts 2:42-47 in a new way.

Part of the reason for a new way of looking at the passage does have to do with the way the world has turned upside down. In Acts the author talks about the disciples breaking bread together and sharing everything in common. Often times preachers working with this passage focuse on the economic disparity in the country and in the world. As Fr Daniel Berrigan, SJ remembered his friend and co-laborer Dorothy Day, he had this to say about her.

She awakened me to connections I had not thought of or been instructed in—the equation of human misery and poverty with warmaking. She had a basic hope that God created the world with enough for everyone, but there was not enough for everyone and warmaking.(Article on Daniel Berrigan in America: The Jesuit Review of Faith and Culture)

As I continue to read Thomas Merton’s writings (Dorothy Day was a mentor and friend of Merton as well as Berrigan) about peace and the presence of God in the world, I am seeing a new connection that I hadn’t seen before. They call me to reexamine what peace is to me.

What is peace? Is it the absence of war or conflict? Not really. Is it two sides drawing lines in the sand and then hunkering down? Not at all. What is peace? I believe that the core of peace is transformation. The Good Shepherd transformed the lives of the sheep. They could trust the Good Shepherd more than they could anyone else. Many of the others were likely to be wolves in sheep’s clothing as Jesus warned.

The new way of living, the community that was described in Acts 2:42-47 was a way built upon the foundation of peace and a radical love which looked to the care of others before one’s self. To what way of living are we called in this time of the COVID-19 Novel Cornavirus?

I have seen many great acts of compassion and care for neighbors in our community and in this world. People pulling together, putting aside differences (which all of a sudden aren’t as important), and working to make a difference. Sadly I have also seen many acts of selfishness and a “me first” way of being. I believe that in the midst of this pandemic we are being called to a transformation. No, God didn’t cause this pandemic to “get our attention.” I believe in the midst of the suffering, dying, and fear that we are being challenged to a new way of living.

In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

My prayer is that we will emerge from this time a more caring and compassionate people. Yes I am a dreamer… but I can imagine…

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