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“What is the meaning of this pandemic?”

on Friday, 01 May 2020. Posted in Corona virus

Regular readers of the magazine, MICHAEL, are already acquainted with Fr. Henri Boulad, a Jesuit priest from Egypt, who has written some thirty books translated into fifteen different languages and who has lectured worldwide. Fr. Boulad participated in our September 2019 Study Session held in Rougemont, Canada. (You can read his commentary in the Oct./Nov./Dec edition of the magazine.) Please enjoy Fr. Boulad’s Easter Sunday homily (April 12, 2020) in which he addresses the call from God to wake up, pause and return to the basics during the pandemic, unprecedented in modern history.

My dear friends, many among you have been waiting for my comments on what has been going on with the coronavirus. Many are wondering why I have kept silent on a topic that is on everyone’s mind, heart, lips, and on television. The reason is that I have been waiting.

Why was I waiting? I was waiting because I could not see clearly. I kept asking myself whether there was something behind this pandemic, not in a political sense nor as some machination, but seeking to know its meaning.

Each one of you has wondered: ‘What is the meaning of this? It must mean something!’ Or you might be asking: ‘Why complicate matter?’ Yet, a catastrophe which has affected the entire world for the first time in history must have some sort of meaning.

You might tell me: ‘You will involve God in the story by saying that He is exacting revenge; that God is angry and wishes to punish us’.

Yes, I will include God, for He is not a stranger to this; He lives this tragedy with us and if He allows it it is possible that He wants to deliver a message.

A Sign of the Times

Vatican II invited us to heed the signs of the times. Is there a sign brighter than this epidemic? No, there is none. So what does it tell us?

I do not wish to give a definitive answer since I do not have one to offer, but I invite you all to reflect and to ask: ‘Lord, do you wish to tell us something through these events? What is your message?’

Setting aside wrath and chastisement, what is the message? It is a call to wake up. The driver of a car who falls asleep can run off the road and break his neck. The person next to him, realizing this, strikes him in the chest and cries out: ‘Wake up!’

Wake Up

This pandemic should wake us from our slumber, from the lack of consciousness in which we find ourselves. We needed a major blow to warn us: ‘Stop! Where are you going? Where are you running to? What do you truly want?’

Through the window, I see cars speeding by on the highway; hurrying in one direction while others go the opposite way. People are running. Cars are speeding by. Put on the brakes! Stop!

We are spinning like tops and in the end we do not see. In the end, we could ask ourselves whether we know what we long for and where we are headed.

Time to Pause

The pandemic offers a time to pause, to put on the brakes, to stop: stay home. Stay away from other people. Do not travel. One ban follows the last. What might have been recommended by applying common sense and reason is now imposed upon us by circumstances. What laid hidden becomes visible all of a sudden.

The superfluous disappears as we think that tomorrow we could be the next victim of the virus. I listen as thousands of people die of the virus every day. I could be next.

A Return to Basics

During this pause we are invited to reflect on what is essential; what is important. Where are we heading and why the hurry?

“Consider a glass filled with water and scoria [a dark coloured igneous rock]. When it is stirred the liquid in the glass is opaque. Leave it alone, let the scoria settle to the bottom and the liquid will become clear and you will understand what I want to convey.

The same applies to our souls and to our world: we must stop. May we be led to understand that what we are now forced to go through, owing to circumstances, we should seek to do each day. Each day we should take time to rest, contemplate, meditate and reflect beyond the non-essentials that consume all of our time. We must set time aside every day to focus on what is important.

May we fully accept the time out that is forced upon us and ask:

‘Lord, help me to see clearly; help me to take advantage of this unique occasion to reflect and to rediscover what is essential’.

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