As Christians, we are called to a greater response to whatever challenges our community
By Bob Hunt
I am writing this in the middle of the coronavirus national emergency. As of this writing, my daughter’s school is on an extended spring break, many restaurants and other businesses have closed their doors, travel is severely restricted, the stock market has suffered historical declines, and Bishop Richard F. Stika has suspended the celebration of all public Masses until further notice, as have many other bishops across the country.
Of course, in order to meet the deadline, I must write a few weeks ahead of publication. As such, I have no idea where we will be as a nation and a Church by the time you read this in your copy of The East Tennessee Catholic. Hopefully, reading this article will be a reminder of what was a pretty serious situation only weeks ago, instead of a reminder of what was only the beginning of an even greater crisis.
The nature of this national emergency, a virus that is spread by close contact with others, ought to remind all of us of our common humanity, of our need for each other, of how necessary it is to be kind, to be thoughtful, and to look to the needs of others before our own needs. When this is
all said and done, I believe that the true test of our character will be how well we treated and considered each other, and not how much we looked out for ourselves.
For believers, of course, there is more at stake here than our common humanity and our commitment to be good citizens. There is our call to Christian faith, hope, and charity. I recommend meditation on three passages from our Scriptures, one that speaks to our faith, a second that speaks to our hope, and a third that challenges our charity, our love for each other.
For faith, let’s turn to the prophet Habakkuk 3:17-19:
“Though the fig tree does not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like deer’s feet, he makes me tread upon my high places.”
Because of businesses closing, many have lost their jobs and source of income, if only temporarily. Many have lost far more. It will test our faith. So many times, when I was between jobs or my family was financially stressed, I would turn to this passage of Habakkuk to uphold my faith. It isn’t wishful thinking. It is confidence that God will keep our heads above water and provide for us.
For hope, let’s turn to another prophet, Jeremiah 29:11-14:
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations.”
Our hope is in the Lord, and not in our ability to provide for ourselves or in our government’s protection. Even our health is transient. Just as our lives are eternal, so is our hope.
Finally, for love, let’s turn to St. Paul’s classic treatise on charity in his First Letter to the Corinthians 13:
“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things … So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
I encourage you to read the entire chapter. As Christians, we are called to a greater response to whatever challenges our community. We are called to rise above our broken human natures and follow the call of Christ to love well and act on that love for the glory of God. Let us pray for God’s grace to answer that call, and for His mercy on our nation and our world.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.
Bob Hunt is a husband, father, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville and is a candidate for the permanent diaconate.