BY ANDY BARTON
In these days between the darkness of the pandemic and the promise of a return to some normalcy, let us remember the better parts of the solidarity that helped to bring us through. Even in the moments when our fear and frustration drew us inward – isolated by mandate – our love for our neighbor remained. Even as our places of worship were shut or reduced, our faith persevered. These days have brought us together even as they kept us physically apart. As we move forward from the hard times of this past year, let us not forget the love and care for each other that was our shelter when our world appeared so bleak.
Perhaps our present times feel something like the years following Jesus’s resurrection, described so beautifully in the Pauline Epistles. For early Christians, it was a period of uncertainty and hope following the devastation of the crucifixion. In those days of the early church, the apostles spoke not about returning to times like those before Christ’s death, but of a new world based on the teachings of a Savior who brought the word of God and challenged the status quo. To see this new world, Paul writes in his letter to the Romans: “Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” The great Jewish psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl reiterated this notion in his autobiographical Man’s Search for Meaning writing, “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” Both Saint Paul and Frankl, men who fundamentally understood hardship, challenge us not to merely make it through difficult times but to become better as a result of them.
In the year to come, many of us will return to our daily activities, rituals, and traditions that were interrupted by COVID-19. These acts will be just cause for celebration; yet, let us not forget that many were suffering long before the arrival of COVID-19. The vulnerability of our poor has been exposed disproportionately by this pandemic. For them, “returning to the normal” of a pre-pandemic life will be far more difficult and offers no great promise. For them, there will still be the constant worry of achieving the most basic human needs like housing and food. For them, we must look to renewal, rather than return. Let the solidarity in our response to crisis be the foundation of our new daily lives of outreach and love for our poor and vulnerable.
Andy Barton is the President and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado. This article first appeared in the Colorado Catholic Herald.