Submitted by Fr. Peter Ullrich, St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, Tarkio
These are challenging times to say the least. The year 2020 will long be remembered as the year of the coronavirus COVID-19. Beginning in the middle of March life as we’ve been used to living it changed dramatically. It was then that schools began closing, businesses suspended operations, churches did not gather together on Sundays or any other day, people stayed at home, everyone was urged to use a variety of safety precautions to prevent the spread of the virus and to avoid getting it. It’s safe to say that many people have been living with a certain sense of anxiety (even fear), troubled about whether to venture out into crowds, or even to go out at all. Most followed the instructions received from the CDC, the local and state governments. At the same time, some made little of it all as if it were just another flu bug. Well, now in early June with over 108,000 American deaths and upwards of 1.8 million people with the virus, it has clearly made its impact. Unemployment has skyrocketed, and people wondered if or when things will return to normal. And what might normal be?
On top of that, now in the spring, with the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, thousands of people have expressed anger at the brutality that caused his death. Demonstrations, protests, riots have been seen in many cities. This time it seems the outcry is louder and the voices stronger. People everywhere are coming together to call for an end to the effects of prejudice in our world and our country. The country cannot continue down the path of unequal treatment by law enforcement. Pent up emotions are spilling out into the streets everywhere. A winter of being closed up for fear of the virus, anxieties, unemployment, and more have led many to the current state of unrest.
What is asked of people of faith? All faiths – Christian, Judaism, Islam. How can we in our small way help this state of things? I’m reminded of what a young school girl asked her teacher after 9-11, “What should we do?” The teacher answered: ‘go home and be nice to each other.’ A pretty simple answer – be nice to each other. A spirit of acceptance, understanding, patience, justice, and peace all start with being nice to each other. That just makes sense. For us Christians, Jesus told us that – ‘not an eye for an eye’ – His way was the way of love. His was the way of going the extra mile. Listening, loving, reaching out, supporting, and forgiving. I’m reminded of the scene in John’s Gospel on the evening of the day of Resurrection we’re told that apostles and others were gathered together behind locked doors out of fear. And Jesus came and stood in their midst and said: “Peace be with you.” PEACE. The great gift of the Risen Jesus. We need to turn our faith, our trust, in the Risen Jesus and to His message, all of His message. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, all this and more. Be forgiving. You and I aren’t going to be able to right the wrongs of the world, cure the virus, and overcome poverty. But we can be nice to each other. Being nice means listening, accepting, and being patient, being forgiving, loving, and being at peace.