There are many approaches to reporting on the coronavirus. The media for the most part gives us the numbers of affected, projections of the infections to come, numbers of dead and backups at funeral homes, even cemeteries (thus a need for giant refrigerated trucks to store dead bodies), needs of those at the front lines, and what we can do and need to do to stay as safe as possible. What the government, locally and federally, is and is not doing to make us safer and much more. That is all useful and even necessary information.
But humans do not live by information alone. It is also necessary to listen deeply to the deep stories, the holy stories, of our courageous workers on the scene today. And also to the holy stories of our ancestors, for a pandemic is not just about struggle and fear, anxiety and death, and the grief that accompanies all that. It is also about making community happen. And what comes next after the pandemic subsides.
Our souls also need attending to at this time of a species emergency (and this plague is a warm-up for the emergency bearing down on us from Climate Change, another species wake-up call).
So it seems appropriate in this Passover season to recall the promise of Liberation from “Egypt” and the “Pharaoh” (“Let my people go”) and of the hope that resides in the human breast for that kind of redemption. To re-tell the sacred stories that surround this mythical meal of remembrance of good times past, times of deliverance.
Humans need hope to survive just as we need courage and a sense of the common good and a common working for the good of all to survive. Thus we celebrate the courage and generosity of the workers who are daily trying to stem this virus or to assist those struck by it while we look to the future.
We also celebrate those who by staying home are contributing to the common good.
Also this week Christians and others make a point of remembering Jesus’s Last Supper (understood by many over the years to be a Passover Supper) and Good Friday. A rabbi and teacher of deep love and compassion, who was executed by the Roman Empire for stirring up hope that went beyond the boundaries of the imperial agendas, that focused on the poor and the forgotten and those without a voice. And who did so not by sentimentalizing love but in the tradition of his Jewish ancestors and the prophets, insisting on justice being integral to love (hesed).
A current bill before Congress proposes that we give the Pentagon next year $103 billion to create advanced new nuclear weapons. This money would pay for four million ventilators!
Surely among the lessons to be learned from these Holy Days is this: that values of the empire are not necessarily the values of humanity. As Jesus said.
See Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion, pp. 4-35.
Banner Image: The Crossing of the Red Sea by Nicolas Poussin. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. On Wikimedia Commons.
Queries for Contemplation
How do these lessons from Passover and Jesus’ teachings on compassion apply to you and yours and to the larger community, our entire species, that is struggling with a pandemic today?
What other lessons from Passover stories and Jesus’ story can you add to these?