One of the benefits of this time of separation and isolation is meeting people on the street walking their dog and discovering they are parishioners!! Frequently, you just never know or recognize people outside of the regular way that you see them. People are not used to seeing me without vestments or collar. Well, they are getting quite a different image of me!!
We, as a staff, are trying to call registered parishioners just to let them know we are thinking about them and ask if they need any special prayers. In these phone calls and on the chance meetings outside walking the dog, I’m learning that we have a number of parishioners who are doctors and nurses. I met one such parishioner yesterday who is a nurse at the University of Chicago Hospital, working with people suffering from the virus. Another parishioner works as a doctor in the ER at Northwestern Hospital; think about the suffering he sees. When I reflect on these people, care givers, first responders, they are engaged, not in a career, but in a vocation of love and service.
When the Son of God became human, uniting His divinity with the humanity of Christ, He DESCENDED into our lives, not ascended. Christ, the Godman, began life in poverty, lived a poor, simple life, preached to sinners and outcasts, confronted forces of power, surrendered to the Father’s plan of salvation and descended as far as He could descend: He was rejected, spit upon, crucified and died. This was/is His vocation, a life of love and service, to the point of death.
When you see Jesus on the Cross, this Jesus, at this moment, in which all time, past, present and future is compressed, you see Him descended into the darkness of our lives.... our brokenness...our sin. He lives, NOW, in the pain and suffering of people with the Coronavirus and every other illness; He lives NOW, in relationships that are divided; He lives NOW in the children suffering all forms of abuse and poverty; He lives NOW in the countless people around the world suffering the injustices of our economic systems, perpetuated by those who purport to be His followers; He lives NOW in us church leaders who choose the path of least resistance, comfortably separating ourselves from movements to alleviate injustice; He comes to us NOW, in our day and in our lives, descending into the darkest regions of the heart, so that our spirits can RISE to new life and purpose.
Christ descends so that we can RISE from illnesses, separation, injustice, loneliness, abuse and every other form of darkness. But as we rise, we must accept His way of living and loving which empowers US to DESCEND with Him into these dark places drawing people UPWARDS to the Light.