Lord Jesus, Hear our pleas, our good shepherd and divine physician. We implore your mercy…
For true safety and security during a pandemic, we must look to heaven
Security. Safety. Safekeeping. The human craving for protection against harm is universal and reaches its anxiety-ridden peak in the face of an invasive threat like the coronavirus. Intensive media coverage heightens the sense of impending doom. Granting that, however, some responses to the desire for security strike me as attempts to exploit the public mood.
In that category I’d put repeated internet ads I’ve received from a firm offering assistance in obtaining a legal permit to carry a concealed handgun; a solicitation, also repeated frequently, urging me to “protect” my retirement savings by investing in gold; and a heating and air conditioning company’s offer to sell me an air purifier since “with sickness on the forefront of all of our minds, the last thing we want is to be breathing polluted air.”
But possibly my favorite security-themed item — though not an ad but a news item — was a story out of London reporting that “across Britain” vandals were burning telecom towers in the belief they emit waves that increase vulnerability to the virus.
While making no special claims for myself and my fellow Catholics, I nevertheless believe that the faith we share can and should lead us to deal realistically with the issues raised by the pandemic.
An example of doing that was the U.S. and Canadian bishops’ action May 1 in placing their countries under the protection of the Blessed Virgin. For those who view events with the eyes of faith, that was no mere pious gesture but a realistic step in the face of a crisis. In the same vein, most dioceses, parishes and church-related institutions appear to have acted with commendable good sense regarding things like lockdowns and social distancing, while Catholics collectively have responded with patience, prudence and good humor to the painful experience of being without direct access to the Mass for weeks on end.
As that suggests, this crisis obliges all of us to think seriously about where we look for security.
It is reasonable to look to things like medical care, insurance and well-managed retirement plans to give us and our families security in times of need, and the social safety net should provide for those who can’t provide them for themselves. (About handguns, I have serious doubts. I don’t own one, don’t want one, and suspect that if I had one I’d be less safe, not more.)
But that said, it remains a fact that the Gospels tell us to take a deeper — and, yes, more realistic — view of security than an exclusive emphasis on medical care, insurance and a solid 401(k) plan allow us to do. Jesus speaks about these things many times. Consider the familiar parable about a wealthy landowner who had lately harvested yet another bumper crop.
“Where can I store all this?” he asked himself. The answer was obvious: tear down his barns and build even bigger ones. That done, he thought, “‘Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!’ But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?'” (Lk 19-20).
And Jesus concludes by underlining what ought to be an obvious point: “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God” (Lk 12:21).
There’s a lesson here about security in time of a pandemic or any other time. Look ahead, yes, but make sure you look far enough.
Russell Shaw is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.