PANDEMIC EXILE

April 24, 2020

On this April morning of 2020 during the covid-19 pandemic, I awoke to the sound of heavy rain pounding on the roof over my head in my upstairs bedroom. I lay awake listening to the rain, wanting to fall back asleep. After what seemed to be quite a while, I heard a little bird start to sing. I listened intently, because the rain was really coming down heavily, almost drowning out her song, and it was still dark outside. I tried to picture how this little bird could be singing. Where was she sheltered from the heavy rain? Wasn’t she getting soaked? Maybe she found a safe little nook to be kept dry. The leaves on the trees are not quite developed enough for sturdy shelter!  But this little bird was doing what God called her to do every morning. I looked at the clock: it was 5:40, and yet she found reason to sing, in the only way she knew how to praise God, her Creator. Or, was this song bird complaining that she was getting soaked? Maybe calling out for help? From other birds? From God?

That night before falling asleep, I had read a chapter about the prophets of Israel, in Old Testament: The Great Themes of Scripture, by Richard Rohr. Some of the prophets wrote before the exile into Babylon, some wrote during, and some wrote after. It occurred to me how similar our situation is right now with this pandemic. We are in exile!  Although we do not have the hardship of being forced to move from our land, our homes have become the place of exile, where we can become lonely and discouraged, especially when daily or weekly Mass has been a part of our routine. We cannot go to church to gather together for Masses or to worship. Comparatively, the Israelites could not go to the Temple to worship. “How?” they wondered, “were they to worship God?” We know how faithful God is to his covenant with his people. We are his people! Rohr writes, “At the center of the prophets’ ministry is their awareness of the transcendent God: a God who is above all things and yet within all things. The presence of God cuts across all the boundaries of space and time, so there is never any place or event from which God is absent.” (p.77) We need to be aware of God’s presence, even in our exile.

The psalmist writes, “In you, Lord, I take refuge…You are my rock and my fortress… save me in your kindness…” (Psalm 31: 2,4,17)  Let us take heart, have hope, and trust in the Lord to see us through this time in our lives.

We can choose to despair; or rather choose to read our story of hope in Scripture, and find creative prayer time, not breaking the bonds of our covenantal love. We can feel distraught, losing hope, as did Judas; or choose to keep hope, experiencing love and forgiveness (forgive ourselves for impatience!), as did Peter.

How is our faith? Are we in despair because we can’t go up to the Temple, or do we continue to sing God’s praises from home during this time? We are called to be prophets today, to sing praise, like the little bird, in the midst of a downpour.

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