Every year Lent offers us an opportunity to reflect on our lives and the values by which we live. Traditional practices such as prayer, fasting and alms-giving draw us first inward in an examination of our living out of Gospel values and then send us out in service to our neighbors.
This year the COVID-19 virus provides an additional challenge and opportunity for reflection and service. Saint Benedict in his Rule tells us to daily remind ourselves that we are going to die (RB 4:47). Rather than a morbid focus on death, this is a call to humility, to remember we are not God. It reminds us of our mortality and motivates us to take every opportunity to live as disciples of Jesus in the present. The COVID-19 virus reminds us of our mortality. This Lent, with the virus among us, we think about what we really value in life. Most likely family, friends, and our communities will be at the top of what is most important to us.
The spread of the virus reminds us of our world-wide interconnectedness. We really are all one. This is an opportunity to reflect on the fact that in spite of the divisions we may fervently maintain with peoples different from us, we share common needs for safety, health, happiness, food, water, education and meaningful work.
The news about the virus can make us more fearful of one another. It can reinforce a sense of being a lone individual living in terrifying world. Or, if we take a cue from the Gospel, it can call us to a greater sense of community.
Even as we distance ourselves from one another in order to contain the spread of the virus, it is important to remember that we do not exist alone. We can stay connected through prayer for one another and our world, the phone and social media, donating to agencies and organizations providing for those most in need. As we fast from social contact, may our Lenten practices reinforce our sense that we belong to each other.