by Fr. Kevin Walsh
To navigate living in a time of pandemic, it can be of help if one ponders the incarnation and holds this event of ‘God with us’ in all its fullness. We do not believe in a God who stands at a distance with arms folded saying, “I hope everything works out ok.” In Jesus, born in Bethlehem, we encounter God becoming fully human, entering the condition of our imperfection and joining us in this living the way of loving, suffering, laughing, crying, having support, being abandoned, being understood, being in tension and confronting the physical maladies that our fully human and imperfect bodies undergo.
As an infant totally vulnerable and dependent, the WORD as Guerric of Igny reminds us, doesn’t speak but takes on the condition of being cared for and nurtured by loving but imperfect human beings. The infant Jesus is silent, inviting us not into an empty silence, but a silence full of divine love. It’s not ‘let me tell you I love’ – but ‘let me show you I love’. And Jesus loves us as an infant, as a child, as an adolescent, as one fully human – developing and growing as we develop and grow – interacting with the people and conditions of his time on earth – just as we interact with the conditions of our time on earth. So, we may ask, isn’t he inviting us to disentangle from being self-absorbed and indifferent while at the same time inviting us to live in the radical freedom he exhibits, thereby inviting us to live with him his way of service? It brings us to ask what is God saying to us in this time? Isn’t it to be caring and thoughtful of each other?
The gospels show us Jesus tending to the sick, not always freeing people from illness and death, but offering the example of accompaniment in direct ways as well as the example of going apart to pray.
Jesus’ first miracle has to do with the condition of imperfection of running out of wine at a party. He intervenes at the request of his mother after hesitating. It is a wedding feast. The spousal love of God for us causes us to ponder and realize – we need more than the water of life, human love, if you will – we need the wine, divine love, – which was poured out at the last supper after the words ‘this is my blood’ have been spoken – and just as surely we remember sour wine was offered to Jesus as he hung in agony on the cross – remembering also his divine blood flowed from his human body as his human body was pierced with a lance while he hung upon that cross.
In a time of pandemic, we remember that God enters our time and embraces our pain, confronts our fear, arrests our doubt, and shifts us away from preoccupation with self. It isn’t always about doing, but it is always about being in the presence of God, being present to God being present to us, and being in union with Jesus who unites himself to us unreservedly. It means we offer, in the ways that we can, the love we have received so that no one in this experience has to say I am alone and uncared for. The incarnation – ‘God with us’ – means that God is not only present to us but also through us. And the being there “for” one another in our time is patterned on Jesus’ way of being there for those in his time.
Faith in the time of a pandemic ponders the incarnation drawing insight from the loving God to know how to choose life in the midst of anxiety, fear, suffering, sickness and pain. God chooses us to share in his life inviting us to incarnate his love by the choices we make in this time.