“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh.”
During this terrible pandemic, Ecclesiastes 3 above is good counsel for us. Although its season already seems far too long, COVID-19 will pass.
Our hope and challenge are to learn from it and emerge better not just in terms of immunity but in terms of spirituality, moral strength and solidarity with our fellow human beings the world over.
Our country’s terrible toll, the highest by far of any nation in the world, is due, in some measure, to our divisiveness and lack of concern and compassion for the disadvantaged. It is therefore a time to embrace all our fellow human beings worldwide, to take down our walls, whether virtual or of steel and concrete, and to accept that we can only overcome the virus if we work together.
Within our borders, we have to work for the safety of all, regardless of color or creed, immigrant, guest worker or citizen, free or in prison, poor or rich, with special care for essential workers who plant, till and harvest our sustenance and the first responders, nurses, doctors and maintenance workers caring for the sick.
This indeed is a time to die and a time to grieve, but it is also a time to live as fully as we can during our time here, whether long or short. At Thanksgiving, we have much more to be thankful for than in ordinary times.
If we have a roof over our heads, we can, besides being grateful, lobby for those facing foreclosure or eviction. If our table has sufficient food, we can speak out for the millions going hungry and find ways to help.
If we know that our loved ones, scattered all over the country, are alive and well, we can empathize with the 545 children taken from their parents by immigration authorities at our southern border in 2018 who are still not reunited with parents who cannot be found.
As Pope Francis said in the documentary “Francesco,” “It’s cruelty, and separating kids from parents goes against natural rights. … It is something a Christian cannot do. It’s cruelty of the highest form.”
The separations were the result of a policy of zero tolerance. Between October 2017 and May 2018, 2,700 children were taken from their parents while seeking refugee status at our southern border. A U.S. district judge stopped the practice, which is unlawful, and most were eventually returned, but not all.
In a recent article in the Jesuit magazine, America, by J.D. Long-Garcia, a senior editor, Sister Norma Pimentel, of the Missionaries of Jesus, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville, Texas, said: “I was in the cells of the detention facility with children all around me crying, with their faces full of tears. And I’m there crying with them.”
So, even as we experience fear during this time, we need to see beyond our own troubles to the needs of others.
Only then will a time to weep turn into a time to laugh, and a time to mourn turn into time to dance. For now, though, social distance!