Can COVID-19 Restrictions Teach Us Gospel Values?

The Gospel for Friday of the 3rd Week of Lent (March 20, 2020) teaches about the Greatest of the Commandments, love of God and love of neighbor from Mark, Chapter 12.

The Gospel reads in part:

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
   Hear, O Israel!
   The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
   with all your soul,
   with all your mind,
   and with all your strength.
The second is this:
   You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”

My hunch is that the gathering, mobility, and social restrictions imposed by local, state, and federal authorities to help blunt the potential spread of the virus is causing us to find a “new normal” and to begin redefining work, schooling, family life, Church, and travel.

These challenges, no doubt, are turbulent, stressful and filled with anxiety, as partially evidenced by empty grocery store shelves, by lighter traffic on streets and highways, and sadly by a significant spike in ammunition purchases, stock sell off that seem remarkably like insider trading, and even Coronavirus scammers. But beyond the initial shock and fear there will be a new normal, a new routine, of some ilk that is yet to be developed.

Will simplifying and centralizing love of God and love of neighbor become a robust part of our new normal? Right now, we seem to be stripped down to the basics-relationships. Our relationship with God and neighbor is the foundation upon which all else is built. The facades created in the hustle-bustle world of luxury, affluence, power, control, security will be, if they haven’t already been, upended.

Our back to basics approach to life…wash your hands, cover your mouth, give people their personal space, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, will help us recalibrate our interactions and focus on the primacy of relationship near and far so that we can better understand our role and impact in perpetuating, protecting and insuring the Common Good, which is fundamentally loving neighbor over self.

Restrictions on liturgical gatherings affords us the opportunity to simplify our relationship with God and recognize that our foundation for public worship is our personal relationship with God as demonstrated by private prayer-talking and listening to God-in the quiet of our heart, and encountering Jesus Christ in Scripture. Once we are able to gather again for public worship those celebrations will be defined, as they always have been, by our personal relationship with God, but maybe, as a result of these restrictions we now face, our new personal relationship with God will usher in a new vitality within our Church, a new Pentecost of sorts.

Hopefully love of God and love of neighbor will be the flowers that bloom in this desert time.

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