Regardless of our beliefs, the one experience common to all humanity is that we die. In that we share a kinship. But Christians can, through their actions and faith, lodge their protest against this great enemy, not as a shaking of one’s fist at the wind, but as testimony to the greater hope of the eventual defeat of death itself. The thing we must always struggle to discern is the proper shape of that testimony.
When I was younger, I had an aunt stay with us for a few days who was afflicted with H.I.V. I was only a child and the information was hazy and jumbled in my developing mind. I do remember vividly sitting at our dinner table eating fries with a little too much ketchup. She came and sat next to me and asked if she could have some. I was afraid. What if she had a cut on her lip and bled into the fries and I wouldn’t be able to tell? Could it be spread through saliva? I was terrified, but I loved my aunt more than I feared her disease. So we ate fries together and I swallowed my terror. That hasty communion is my lasting memory of her.
During the AIDS epidemic, many churches showed their solidarity by sharing the bread and the wine with the infected to show that there was nothing to fear. Today, it may be that we show our solidarity by not sharing.
The Gospel of John recounts Jesus’ words to his disciples in the upper room before his death. During this final discourse, he tells them that it is better that he goes away so that the comforter (the Holy Spirit) would come. The point is that the loss of his physical presence through his death, resurrection and ascension would lead to an even deeper communion with God. It is possible that, strangely enough, the absence of the church will be a great testimony to the presence of God in our care for our neighbors.
The archdiocese of New York City has cancelled Sunday Mass.
“What did the church do in the year of our Lord 2020 when sickness swept our land?” writes Anglican priest @esaumccaulley. “We met in smaller groups, washed our hands, and prayed.” https://t.co/CAnpMvp2tD
— New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) March 14, 2020