Times, They Are A’Changing

It’s weird. Things that once felt and seemed completely abnormal now feel normal. Conversely, normal things seem ludicrous and unkind. When I see people on previously-recorded television programs doing things like, well, hugging, I cringe. Egads! I cry to my television. Haven’t you heard about social distancing? Can you please consider the six-foot rule?

Take church services. No, I mean really. They did take them away from us. Well, most church services anyway. I think there are a few Pentecostal churches that don’t care if their snakes are closer than six feet away from them. Amen. Praise the Lord.

But it’s been three weeks now since I’ve walked into my church to attend Mass. The first Sunday, I felt totally off-kilter. All day long, I couldn’t remember what day of the week it was. I missed the community — and the sacrament — that is Mass.

By the next week, Jen had steered me towards the online Sunday Mass provided by St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I cried through the whole first half of the Mass. It was so good to listen to those familiar words, especially now when things are so scary. I took advantage of the online Mass once again yesterday, and when it was finished, I realized that now watching a Mass on my iPad felt completely normal. I even said the responses out loud with the few brave souls who were assisting Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the altar. Amen. Praise the Lord.

I wonder if our old life will even feel familiar once we are released to live among, and actually touch, others.

I began pondering that a few days ago, when I turned on our television to watch Pope Francis give a special blessing to his flock. His homily — recited in (I think) Italian but translated for us into English — was mind-blowing in its simplicity. I seriously suggest that you tune into You Tube or wherever you can find a recording of his blessing and listen to the homily. It was amazing.

But back to my pondering. I have never believed that when bad things happen to people, it’s because they are being punished by God. Kids don’t get cancer because their parents are being punished. Tornados don’t destroy communities because the people who live there are bad. Pandemics aren’t punishment for misbehavior by God’s lowly humans.

But when things like tornados and diseases and pandemics happen, God wants — even expects — us to bring good out of the bad.

Coronavirus — for all the bad it’s doing — is causing the world to slow down. Families are spending time with each other. In an environment where many kids are rushing home from school, grabbing their homework to work on in the car while they eat a peanut butter sandwich on their way to tennis, or basketball, or swimming practice, they are welcoming a chance instead to sit around in their pajamas all day, playing Monopoly with their moms and dads. Instead of listening to podcasts while riding exercise bicycles in the gym, parents are listening to their kids laugh while riding bicycles with them around the neighborhood. We’re sitting around tables piled high with homemade food that our kids helped make. We’re learning to be kind to one another.

Or at least I hope we are being kind. And, though I know that real life will result in many of the same behaviors, I hope some of it lasts.

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