by Veronica Szczygiel
The coronavirus pandemic forced us into quarantine and instituted a new normal that is far from our old normal. Non-essential workers remain in closed quarters due to logical, scientific justification: to contain the spread as much as humanly possible. But even logic can’t completely quash our very human and very real fear of the present moment.
This quarantining is actually deeply Biblical. After Jesus’ crucifixion, His Apostles hid in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, where they had celebrated the Last Supper, because of fear. They feared that society would punish them for following Jesus, who was brandished a criminal, beaten, and cruelly killed. They feared their own deaths, and so instead, they chose to lock themselves away.
We are now in this metaphorical Upper Room. Though we don’t have people wishing to crucify us, we do experience a similar fear: exposure to something that could be potentially deadly. To mitigate this fear, we hide.
There are two substantial differences, though, between our situation and the Apostles’ Upper Room. First, the disciples were hiding, but they were hiding together. They had each other to comfort, to love, and even to argue with. Some of us are at home with our families. But many of us live alone. And whether you live with others or not, we all probably feel lonelier than ever. It doesn’t help that we can’t attend Masses with our parish community.
We can, however, take advantage of technology. If you are alone, pick up the phone and call others, even just to say hello. If you have a television, try not to over-watch the news; watch live-streamed Masses or read a book instead. If you have a laptop, you can use Zoom or Google Hangouts to communicate with friends and relatives over video. Conversely, if your neighbor is alone, reach out to him or her through these same means. A five-minute conversation might be just five minutes for you but will probably mean the world to those who live by themselves.
The second difference between our situation and the disciples’ is that they had seen their teacher die in front of their very eyes. Though the women had later witnessed Jesus’s Resurrection and reported it, the Apostles still lived in fear and a state of uncertainty — was it true? Was their teacher really alive after such brutality? They questioned whether Jesus was truly with them; on the contrary, we present-day Catholics know God is always with us, no matter the dire and tumultuous circumstances. He is with us in this strife; we can lean on Him for patience, perseverance, and hope. We are blessed because we have not seen and yet believe.
Truly, we are fasting in the desert with Jesus during this Lenten pandemic. We must remember that the great Easter hope is coming — it may not be in the next few days or even weeks, but we must be patient. We must believe that God is here for us and will deliver us from this plight.
Szczygiel is the assistant director of online learning at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education.