Reflections From the Belly of a Whale

By Sr. Andrea Koverman, SC Federation, First Vows
It seems no accident to me that the COVID-19 pandemic reached proportions large enough to make the world take notice and stop it in its tracks occurred during the season of Lent. Always a solemn and sacred time to honestly look at ones life, to examine the ways in which one has or has not, does or does not live the faith they profess to believe. I ask myself how closely am I following the Way of Jesus, not just adoring but truly imitating him? What are the ways in which I disrupt the flow of love from God to me to others that I’m meant to participate in? How can I work towards detaching from those impediments, letting them go, turning away from the sin that they are and the suffering they can cause myself and others?

It’s ironic to me that I am writing for the Future of Charity when I’m wondering about the future of society, as I imagine most of us are. As I was praying about this, it occurred to me that maybe God is using COVID-19 as a sort of unwelcome prophet sent to warn us just as Jonah was sent to warn the Ninevites. Is it similarly spreading throughout the world to warn us of impending doom lest we change our evil ways of doing things? We can’t run away from the deadly virus that has moved its way through our cities, countries and continents bringing everyone from those in royal robes to the lowliest among us to our knees. Though not sporting sackcloth or sitting in ashes, it does feel as if we’ve been given a big time out, sent to our rooms to think on a grand scale about what we’ve been doing – how we treat each other and our God-given planet. Just a quick reflection of our current state of affairs seems to call for it: the masses of people in forced migration, the poverty and violence that compel them to flee, the greed that puts money first and the well-being of people be damned, the pollution that’s causing devastating changes in climate that destroy habitat and inhabitants of all kinds even as we stand idly by watching it all happen…We are at a fork in the road moment and how we proceed will determine everything.

Though this is now the third Sunday of Easter and Lent is meant to be over, it seems as if we’ve been given an extension of sorts. Perhaps that’s another of God’s graces, as I don’t know that we have yet learned the lessons the pandemic can teach us. A simple Google search provides evidence that the environment has improved since it started – carbon dioxide emissions are way down with stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions. Cities around the world long plagued by smog and air pollution are experiencing clear skies, revealing vistas of skylines and mountain ranges that haven’t been seen in years. Incidents of asthma and heart attacks have plummeted. Birds, sea creatures and animals of all sorts are returning to abandoned habitats – all in only a matter of weeks. We feel the paradigm shifting in our own homes and local communities, too. Families are spending quality time together, rediscovering the simple pleasures and gifts of family life. Relationships are more important than ever. We’ve had to acknowledge that we are responsible for not only taking care of ourselves, but also of our neighbors and dutifully wear masks and gloves to protect one another from the virus. We’ve been touched by the commitment and self- sacrifice of health care providers and first responders. We’ve realized that we can make do with less and with what we have on hand. We’re eating healthier and exercising more, appreciating it if we have healthy bodies and noticing the beauty of our surroundings. And we can’t escape the fact that some of us are moving through this time with relative ease and nothing much more than inconvenience, while many many more are suffering incredibly from lack of food, unemployment and inadequate health care. We’ve had to ask the uncomfortable questions of why this is so and how we have personally participated in supporting the systems that perpetuate these injustices.

An inspirational sunrise near my home in NM
But are we ready to come out of our rooms and behave ourselves? Change has been imposed on us by the pandemic, but will we choose to continue to better care for each other and the environment when it’s a choice again? Will we be better followers of Christ, loving ourselves, one another and our common home to a greater degree than in pre-pandemic times? I hope so. I believe so. After all and much to the ire of Jonah, our God is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity (Jonah 4:2), even to the undeserving. We are resurrection people and the love of Christ can rise in and transform each of us. Amen? Amen. Alleluia!