Given the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., begins a new series of articles to look beyond, to the future that awaits us.
In this first part of the series, the Jesuit priest reminds us that Jesus wasn’t a virtual manifestation of God, but His incarnation, precisely so that we could find Him. And He said to us that He is present and that He awaits us in the next world.
Here is the unabridged article published by Vatican News.
I was reading these days the affirmation of a Russian thinker: “The simple relationship between people is the most important thing of the world!” It reminded me of a lovely song full of joy launched a few decades ago by a nice movement of young people that promoted friendship and fraternity among peoples. “Long live the people!” Some certainly remember it. It talked about many persons we meet every morning on the way to work. It said among other things: “If more people looked at people with favor, we would have fewer difficult people and more people of heart . . . ,“ and it inspired many wise and positive sentiments. I thought of it many times in the last years, walking on the street, meeting with many preoccupied people as though closed in on themselves, and many others with cables that came out of their ears, who were totally concentrated on their mobile phone’s screen or talked to the air in a loud voice who knows with whom, without consideration for the people that were on the bus a few centimeters from them. It seemed to me that the enjoyment of looking at others with benevolence and care was becoming rarer and the ever more penetrating intrusion of the new forms of communication in daily life made them almost strange to us.
After several weeks shut-in at home, I feel a great desire to meet again with different faces on the street. I hope that, sooner or later, in due time, this might happen also without masks and without plexi-glass dividers, and I hope to be able to exchange a kind word with them, or even a sincere smile. Over the last months, many of us have experienced with positive surprise the possibilities offered by digital communication, and we hope to be able to take advantage of them also in the future; however, with the extension of isolation, we have realized that they aren’t sufficient.
How will we meet again the day after tomorrow on the street or in the subway? Will we be able to repopulate the common areas of our cities with serenity? Will we be conditioned by fear and suspicion, or with the help of the expected learning of scientists and rulers will we be able to balance right prudence with the desire to rediscover and weave again that quality of daily life that — as we said at the beginning – “is the most important thing of the world,” the very fabric of the human world? Will we realize (more or less than before) that we are a human family on the way in the common home that our unique planet Earth is?
Now that the pandemic made us experience a problematic aspect of globalization that we must all take into account in the future, will we be able to rediscover the impetus of fraternity among peoples beyond and above borders, the benevolent and curious welcome of diversity, the hope of living together in a world of peace?
How will we live our bodies and how will we see the bodies of others — as a possible way of contagion, of risk of which one must be on guard or the expression of the soul of a sister or a bother? Because at the bottom, every human body is this: the concrete manifestation of a unique, worthy, precious soul, creature of God, image of God . . . How wonderful is the sound of his voice, the rhythm of his steps, especially the smile of dear ones! . . . But, moreover, should this not be true for all the people we meet? Then, will recuperating the freedom from the coronavirus will help us to free ourselves of the other viruses of the body and the soul, which hinder us from seeing and finding the treasure that is in the other’s soul, or will we have become even more individualists?
Digital technology can mediate and accompany our relationship usefully, but the mutual physical presence of persons, of their bodies as transparency of their souls, their proximity, and encounter continue being the original point of departure and reference of our experience and of our journey. Jesus wasn’t a virtual manifestation of God, but His incarnation, precisely so that we could find Him — and who isn’t poor in some way, whether he knows it or not? — and that we be able and must be able to see His face in the face of the other.
With what eyes, with what heart, with what smile will we walk again on the streets and come across many persons on the way that, although apparently unknown, at the end of these months we have missed and that, like us, have felt the desire to meet us again in the daily paths of life of our common world?
Father Federico Lombardi, S.J
In this second part, the Jesuit priest speaks of the “shock” that our accelerated lives have received and of the rediscovery of the Lord’s time during the pandemic. “The time for the Lord can seem marginal in a day, but in reality, it is the time in which a source of meaning and order can emerge for the rest of the time of our lives in the light of the Gospel.”
Here is the second part of the unabridged article published by “Vatican News.”
One of the first observations that Pope Francis makes in the Encyclical Laudato Si’, looking at “what is happening in our home,” refers to “acceleration,” namely, the continuous acceleration of the changes of humanity and of the planet, together with the intensification of the rhythms of life and of work. He observes that this speed is in disagreement with the natural times of biological evolution and he wonders if the objectives of the changes are oriented to the common good and to an integral and sustainable human development.
All of us who have reached a certain age, looking at the short time of our lives, have witnessed often that quantity of things we’ve seen change completely and that, after an ever shorter series of years, has changed again. Fortunately, many things have changed for the better, such as the conditions of life of many poor people, possibilities for treatment and surgical operations, free movement, education, information, and communication. However, at the same time we have also <witnessed> that the obsolescence of many goods has accelerated much beyond the necessary, only to fuel economic development and the benefits of certain sectors, advertising pushing obsessively the desire of superfluous novelties, creating a true addiction which makes novelty, the ultimate product seem necessary, so that in many areas the acceleration of change runs the risk of becoming an end in itself, slavery more than progress. It seems clear that a path has been taken of unsustainable rhythm, which sooner or later will break, as the very grave environmental risks indicate.
For their part, many active people, well-integrated in the functioning of the modern world with important functions, are generally occupied in very intense rhythms of activity, not to say frenetic. They often participate with passion and gusto, but later they realize that they paid a very high price in terms of human and family relations, of affections and of the balance of the personality in general.
Now this ever more accelerated race has suffered a formidable shock. The indexes of economic activity are altered, our agendas have been revolutionized, our appointments and trips have been canceled. For many people, the time has become empty and they are disoriented.
Yes . . . time . . . how should it be lived? Of what use is it in the end? There is the time of activity, but there is also the time of waiting full of joy, the time of being together and of loving one another, the time of contemplation of beauty, the time of long nights of insomnia, of waiting in suffering . . . There is also the possibility of wasting much time unnecessarily. Of becoming bitter out of a sensation of uselessness and emptiness . . . There is also the time to be with oneself . . . Does the time also exist to be with God? When we are full of life, we often push it to the margins of existence, because we find innumerable things to do before, which seem more urgent or agreeable, whereas being before the Lord can be postponed.
For many people this strange time of staying at home due to the pandemic. It has been a time to rediscover prayer. We wonder if the reduced possibility of going to church will affect the faith and spiritual life negatively; however, it can also be a moment in which — as Jesus said to the Samaritan woman — we learn to adore the Lord in spirit and in truth everywhere, including at home where we are obliged to stay, including in a forced exterior activity. Jesus adds that the Spirit blows where and when it wills, but without excluding that we too can offer <the Spirit> occasions and ways to blow, helping us mutually to maintain alive, in a thousand ways, the presence of God on the horizon of our time, through witness, word, and closeness in charity.
The time for the Lord might seem marginal in the day, but in reality, it is the time from which a source can emerge of meaning and order for the rest of the time of our lives, in the light of the Gospel. What has been good in my days, in this day of mine? With what spirit have I lived my relations with persons entrusted to me or that I have met? We have all heard talk of the “examination of conscience,” to place ourselves before God and thus put our lives in order. However, we have often forgotten it. Is not the pandemic that has altered the rhythms of our lives an unexpected occasion to reorder them so that they find their purpose and meaning, not only for ourselves but also for our human community?
Fr Federico Lombardi, S. J.