By chance you are reading this and expecting a 2017 romantic sci-fi film review, then you might be a bit disappointed. If however you find yourself, like so many in 2020, set apart by masks, news articles and divisive arguments than you have found a home.
For those who know me well, I am a hugger. Much preferred to a handshake or a well done pat on the shoulder a hug is an all embracing no words needed way of saying, “I appreciate YOU.” And yet, for those who I’ve known who aren’t, I can extend the warmest smile or firmest shake of the hand you’ve ever seen. This extra incentive is needed, I feel, to span the distance between two souls seeking to covey more than a casual hello or passive concern. It is, rather, to recognize Christ in the very person standing in front of you.
Funny enough, I once knew a religious sister who I knew disliked hugs, though that is exactly what everyone who encountered her wanted to do. Petite in frame and quick in step, Sr. Catherine could easily traverse miles in minutes. Yet, she had a pause in meeting each person and speaking so sincerely that you could not help but feel as if you had known her for years. And while I am also certain that this cheerful, intelligent sister had opinions on many topics in the world, she never sought to be argumentative or alienating. Instead she would listen intently and with her eyes and countenance acknowledge that you were heard, valued and cared for.
Replete with both fear and carelessness, on the part of many, this past year has been quite challenging. With constant medical updates and weekly mandates even the simplest of jobs has become significantly more complicated. And regardless of which polarizing side taken, in the end there is a matter of great importance, the care and concern of and for one another. Tasked with creating distance between us, we must also pursue other ways to meet the hurt, loneliness and contentiousness that accompanies a global pandemic. Too much for one person, you say? Yes, it would be- if we look at it in its total sum, or fail to realize that we cannot do this on our own.
St. Teresa of Calcutta once noted that for “Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self”. It is quite easy to see all that has been given up during this time of quarantine, and still what is our intent beyond following the rules? Is our personal sacrifice given for the care and genuine concern of the other…without complaint? We, as a people I’d venture have not moved far past our times wandering in the desert, for complaint comes to us naturally. Yet, inherently we know that for a sacrifice to be freely given, in imitation of Christ, it must be given freely.
It is not the actual physical exertion that counts toward a man’s progress, nor the nature of the task, but the spirit of faith with which it is undertaken.-St. Francis Xavier
But why cross the distance at all, why leave the comforts known to journey with another? “We love”, St John writes, “because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). With gentleness and time we learn too that in seeking to love one another we grow ourselves in our understanding of the love of God. This is the indeed the greatest prize and in itself is enough. Yet, God often graciously grants us a glimpse to see the effect of what His love through us can accomplish. A well timed phone call to a shut-in, a meal left at the doorstep of an ill neighbor, a prayerful pause in our day to be attentive to the concerns of others, this is to traverse the space between us. And this is the work that awaits. So, that when the time comes when masks are removed, and physical space no longer defined we will not find ourselves in a bubble of our own design.
Pray: Lord help us to love the one before us and allow us to spiritually seek to cross the distance between one another. And for those times when we get stuck in our own inconvenience, give us the fortitude to give without counting the cost.