Take a close look at this photograph. It is a picture of you and me right now, walking in a strange new land, a place where church doors are shut, and city streets are desolate. You guessed it. I am talking about how we all feel as we shelter in place during a scary pandemic with no end in sight.
In the beginning, I was afraid. A solid week of catastrophic news was rattling my nerves. My husband and I decided we needed to get out of the house and take a day trip to the Maine coast. Despite 30-degree weather, we packed a simple lunch and found a picnic table near Rockport Harbor. Gusty breezes shook our tablecloth, requiring us to hold our cups in place. We ate quickly. After a brief warm-up in the car, we found a walking path that followed the rocky shore. Sunlight sparkled on the water. Seagulls swooped overhead. Only one lobster boat lay anchored in the cove. Other hikers kept their distance but smiled and waved. I almost forgot about the pandemic. Suddenly, reality pierced my mind like a hot poker. Life is not the same. I live in a new world.
At that point, I had a strange thought. I imagined that this was how the apostles felt as they followed Jesus. The Gospels show us that they were, at times, afraid of Him. Everything about Him was new. He cured the blind and the lame. He raised Lazarus from the dead. Rend you garments, Pharisees, for He said “I am who Am.” In his years in exile, John the Evangelist wrote, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
So much of what we took for granted, including the physical reception of Holy Communion, has been taken away from us. Our world looks desolate, like the lunar surface.
I struggled to replace my fear with hope. I imagined, one day soon, that church doors will reopen. I would settle into the pew, and gaze again at those familiar faces. We would smile knowingly at each other. Yes, I did at times take the Mass for granted. Now I will approach the Eucharist with awe, as I did at my First Holy Communion. After wandering in the desert these many weeks, I will begin to see His world anew.
Copyright 2020 Kathryn Swegart