Attending Mass this morning, I noticed the social distancing. No handshakes. No holy water. Looking closely at the faces gathered in the Sanctuary, I noticed something else: no fear. Ignorant bliss? I don’t think so. It looked a lot like a sense of peace.
We’ll be studying this moment in time for years to come. From a sociological perspective, it is incredibly fascinating. The human reaction to stress placed on the collective system ranges from irritation at the pandemonium to sheer panic. Depending on what sources you are following, you may feel that the world is ending or that all reports are completely overblown. Wherever you fall on the reaction spectrum, indifference does not seem to be an option.
As with most things, somewhere in between seems to be the right place to be. Moderation in our reactions. Moderation in our protections. Moderation in our consumption of the headlines. Well, perhaps we should tilt toward less with regard to the headlines.
The political games have begun. Blame. Outrage. The same old playbook for trying to turn adversity into advantage. Noise, all of it. Nobody’s going to change their minds. Let the thrashing begin. For you and I, let’s start by letting go of blame and outrage. They really don’t make us any happier or help us to feel more secure. Today, don’t listen to any sources that foster this within you.
Next come the stream of horror stories. Extreme examples meant to churn drama. We’re not prepared. We can’t handle it. People aren’t taking the right protective measures. There aren’t enough tests. We shouldn’t be testing everyone. Go to the ER. Don’t go to the ER. “I’m in quarantine and its worse than I ever imagined.” “I had it but it wasn’t so bad.” And on and on. Today, turn off anything that instills a sense of panic or unease. Anything fostering such a feeling is not a friend of yours. (For another take on the pandemic, read Coronavirus Silver Linings.)
What a circus. My favorite site? The CDC. The tone is almost detached. There is a link to “How to Protect Yourself.” Their advice? Wash your hands. Avoid close contact. Stay home if you’re sick. The approach is basic: Here is what we know and here are some suggestions for you. No commentary. No hyperbole. No posturing. Thank you CDC. Keep up the great work.
For those of you amazed to see the sun rise this morning, take heart! I believe it will rise again tomorrow. For every image you see of empty shelves at some grocery store, there is still food available. Even toilet paper has managed to survive the panic shopping. Calm and measured. Moderation in all things. We will survive.
My message today? Peace be with you. As I looked around at the strangers in Mass this morning, I felt love. Love as described by St. Thomas Aquinas: willing the good of the other, as other. Peace be with you. Peace in heart and soul. Peace in your physical environment. Peace in the space between your ears. May peace be upon you in this strange and bewildering moment in time. May you find comfort in knowing that the sun will continue to rise. May you rest easier knowing that we will come together to move past this challenge.
Stay smart. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Peace be with you.