How will you live with the COVID-19 pandemic? Whether we want to admit it or not, each of us will answer this question for ourselves. This is not the time to bury our heads in the sand and pretend we can evade the ripple effects of a pandemic. It is, however, a grand opportunity to flesh out what it means to live as Christ.
According to Francis Collins, Director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health:
“If you look at the rates of new cases that are being diagnosed, we’re on an exponential curve. That curve, some would say, places us only about eight days behind Italy. If that’s true, we have only a very short period of time before this becomes an obvious national crisis with many people presenting with serious illness and hospitals quickly becoming very stressed with the ability to handle all of these sick people, especially older people who are at higher risk and who may need not just a hospital bed but even a ventilator.”
Collins goes on to speak about moral and ethical issues such as the importance of selflessness in the midst of a pandemic. “I think we as a nation have to get into a place of not just thinking about ourselves, but thinking about everybody else around us, and particularly the most vulnerable people—those who are older and those people with chronic diseases.” (From an article in “The Atlantic”)
Eventually, the virus will subside and life will piecemeal return to normal. The question of the hour is what our memory on the other side of this will remind concerning our behavior during the pandemic. Will I reflect in regret that I acted selfishly, hoarding and hating? Or, will I think back on moments of grace in which ministry transpired in the name of kindness and generosity? Will my predominate memory be one of paralysis and self-importance, or will it be of compassionate care of the elderly, family solidarity, contentment with our daily bread, and divine dependence rather than stoic self-reliance. This crisis will eventually pass and offer ample time to consider whether or not we were among those who acted out the Golden Rule (St. Matthew 7:12) and implemented the Great Commandment (St. Matthew 22:35-40).
My life matters in measure of how much other lives matter to me. As Thomas Merton wrote, “No man is an island.” Frederick Buechner touched on this as well, “The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.” I am to respond to the coronavirus in the same way that in ordinary circumstance I show my faith in Christ to be vital and perpetually transforming. In other words, live today like your actions count for eternity—because they will.