Since early in March this year we have all been trying to grapple with the meaning of the Plague. I am not using the word Plague in any medical sense (although the pandemic has been the biggest medical challenge in all of our lives), but rather in a symbolic sense, of something huge and threatening and fearful. How many times in the last few months have we been stricken with a sense of dread, as individuals, as families, as a parish, as a nation, the whole human family? We have been so engaged with the practical realities of trying to cope with hygiene, the figures, the statistics, the shopping, the social distancing, the social media, the daily exercise routine, the loss of family contact, the hugs, the handshakes, the worries about contagion, the endless sanitising, the question marks about the future etc. etc.___ all of which add up to one enormous cloud of oppression and anxiety hanging over the whole human race.
So, let us stand back from all of that for a moment and ask ourselves what possible meaning could any of it have? The Plague. As Christians, how can we make any sense of it? As it began to unfold rapidly back in early March and spread with astonishing speed across the globe, you could see whole nations struggling with it, grappling with it and becoming overwhelmed by it, with enormous loss of life and I began to think this is bigger than any one society, any one nation to cope with. This is something more powerful than the United Nations or the EU or the World Health Organisation or any nation on Earth. I began to see the hand of God in it.
As soon as you say that people begin to recoil at the idea and dismiss this meditation as the ravings of a lunatic! I do not pretend to have any answers to the big questions such as WHY? Or WHAT? But here’s another explosive idea: chastisement, a word that is banned in modern thinking! Could God be trying to teach us something the hard way, having exhausted all the easy ways and not getting any response from us? Could he be trying to tell us that the way we have been living up to 2020, not just in the western world but throughout the developed world, was wrong, was too exploitative of the planet, too destructive of the Earth and too unjust towards the poor, the struggling, the oppressed, both those who have little or nothing in the poorest parts of the world and those who have little or nothing in our own societies , closer to home: the homeless, the marginalised, those knocking on the door and waiting to get in, (sometimes waiting for far too many years), in Direct Provision.
Whatever way we see it, we are being rapidly forced to change our ways, our ways of thinking and our ways of living. There can be no return to what was once normal. So many challenges and problems remain. We would all love to see some light at the end of the tunnel, to know when this is all going to end, to have some crumbs of hope, like the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. But perhaps God wants to keep us in the dark for a long while yet. He may want to make sure that we are learning his lessons. To keep us in the tunnel, for now. We can always turn to our Blessed Mother for consolation for she promised that her Immaculate Heart would triumph in the end. Of one thing we can be certain: there will be an end.