Can you believe it? Resurrection? Pandemic? Did it actually happen? When will it end?
Oh, we always want answers. I have become particularly frustrated by the repetitive questions the Canadian media is presenting our prime minister (apologies to American readers for a bit of local color). The questions: How long will the physical distancing restrictions last? When will the economy rebound? How much will all the economic measures cost? We want answers! That’s what transparency is all about, but what if we don’t know the answers? Or more importantly, why is it so difficult to recognize the limits of our human capacities?
Many have commented, quite accurately, that this worldwide pandemic is striking at the core of the image that we have created for our human systems and abilities. Doctors are supposed to cure us. Medical systems are supposed to guarantee our health. Governments are supposed to ensure our security and well-being. Ostensibly, the privilege of the Global North entails invincibility and scientific enlightenment. Devastating pandemics may be the fate of Africa or areas in Asia, but certainly not here! Here I am to be protected and guaranteed safety, because I am a 21st-century North American with governments, health-care systems and bureaucracies functioning for my benefit.
COVID-19 tells another story. It is the story of devastation; it is the story of horror; it is the story of my being just like every other human being—frail, frightened and at the mercy of a killer we cannot see. The dead have committed no crime, they have not angered a merciless god, and they most certainly have not been appointed to their fates by a transcendent power. We are witnesses to (participants in) something that we prefer to ignore: death and the sin of the world. When our health authorities tell us that the spread of the virus is in our hands, our compliance is less eager than our concern over when authorities will get things under control. We do not see ourselves responsible for our global fate, whether due to a pandemic, or climate change or widespread hunger and poverty. We do not admit our weakness and need for each other, need to live for each other and that for our world to be healed, we must let go of our privilege. We see Christ on the Cross for our future salvation, not for His Kingdom here and now. We fear to enter into the mystery of our Faith—the mystery of our human existence. We continue to see the Cross as something accomplished, concluded, in the past. When we lose sight of the Cross as a sign of our weakness, of a God who is as much absent as present, of a Church more enroute than arrived, we continue to demand answers.
Fortunately, as we move through the Passion to the Resurrection, we can choose the Way of the Cross; we can recognize that together the Cross can be carried; we can know the healing that comes from experiencing God with us, among us and in us. We can rejoice in His presence, even when our churches are closed. We can be strengthened by renewing our awareness of the Spirit within us calling us to be priest, prophet, king. We can let go of those habits that have become crutches and stand in the way of fully living the inheritance of a child of God. We can put aside our need to simply obey and accept black and white answers. Despite the fear of letting go of normalized paradigms, we can take responsibility for our faith and renew the Church. We can be Church, not because someone says so, but because that is what we are called to be by the One who knew our name before we were born. We are the Church that passes through the Cross to the Resurrection. We can be the Church that proclaims a new vision for a humanity forced to realize its profound unity, through its infirmity. We can be the Church that lets go of its own standing and privilege in order to embrace the poor, the forgotten and the marginalized. I can’t alone, but we can together.
Myroslaw Tataryn is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University, Canada, and a Ukrainian Greco-Catholic priest.