A few months back as I was becoming increasingly irritated at the Pandemic restrictions and what I saw as the lack of logic in many of those restrictions, I received an e-mail from a parishioner that stopped me dead in my tracks. She and her husband have raised and cared for a disabled child, though now an adult, still very childlike in her needs. She wrote:
COVID is sort of like having a baby with disabilities. You wake up the first morning and realize you are in now living in a foreign country. One day the US was shut down and you wake up the next morning with no toilet paper, paper towels, bottles of water, no hand soap, no sanitizer. possibly no job no school which lead to no food. There are some of us that can give, pack the food boxes, and sent less than 1 oz of toilet paper to your daughter who can't find toilet paper for 3 weeks and was thrilled with the small sample. Some of us can start praying the rosary which we have never done before regularly as a family. COVID is about realizing your total dependence on God to live through no Eucharist or need to go to 5 pm mass for drive by Eucharist. It is doing things virtually if you have a computer and WIFI. It is like a parent with a medically fragile child with disabilities, who has to accept help from strangers that God has put in your life. (emphasis mine)
It made me realize that the inconveniences of Pandemic restrictions, no matter how irritating, illogical or just plain idiotic are still temporary and not permanent. Raising a child with disabilities or caring for a loved one with chronic illness or serious mental illness, is a permanent inconvenience, if you could call it that. So, from that point forward I tried to approach Pandemic restrictions from a different point of view. I realized that the restrictions give me a small taste of what it would be like to raise a disabled child who needs your care 24/7 and not just for 18 years but for a lifetime and have my liberties restricted permanently. Or what it would be like to be disabled myself, and what it would take just to do something like coming to Mass. What happens when all the personal liberties I enjoy are limited or taken away by a child who needs my care for the rest of my life? How do I react? How self-absorbed, self-pitying will I become?
What my dear writer reminded me is that despite what we consider inconveniences we can still choose to give, still choose to open our eyes to the needs of those around us, and still choose to see the needs that others have. What I also realized is that in truth it is not that big a deal to live with the personal Pandemic restrictions since they are temporary.
This is why our yearly focus on the Passion of Christ is so pivotal. It pulls us outside ourselves, outside our comfort zones and complacency. The Passion points us to a level of self-sacrifice that does not come naturally. In the Passion we $nd freedom. Freedom from our selfish selves, from our preoccupations with our comfort and control.
Jesus put himself into the hands of others. Whether it was Veronica who wiped the sweat off his brow, Simon who helped carry the Cross, or John and his mother and the others who stood by in quiet solidarity.
Eventually we all have to place ourselves in the hands and care of others. Ultimately, we have to place ourselves in the hands of God. Holy Week is a good time to learn how to do that.
Fr. John B.