Monday, October 20, 2014

Putting Fear in Perspective

Dear Friends,

The marks of Ebola on Americans are fear of the unknown, ignorance of the facts, terror of succumbing ourselves, and the desire for a protective wall around our borders, our children. We are still gathering information, pointing fingers of blame. We are angry because people in charge don’t see it our way. Once, we experienced 9/11. We did all the same things then as now – the catalog listed above, and more. We mourned the dead then and now. We named and treasured heroic action. Immediately after 9/11, our churches were full. People needed to acknowledge God in the midst of this unprecedented attack. Little by little, we began to talk about these attacks, not just in their political and international dimensions; we began to wonder together out loud about the spiritual meaning/ implications of 9/11.

We will eventually do the same with this crisis. Here are some thoughts to use as you begin to work through the evolving crisis with the various groups with whom you interact. I will do the same.
The Ebola virus existed long before this moment. It was hosted by unknown forest animals of West Africa, and lay dormant until humans, hunting for food, awakened it. What dangerous food lays dormant in our world until humans awaken it? What cautions do we exert? How do we serve the neighbor by supporting their lives with essential human needs so they won’t have to go back to hunting for dangerous food?

This worldwide crisis requires a worldwide response. Can sickness unto death unify a dispirited, sick world? In the face of this scourge, we do well to turn to the love and lessons of God. Why bring God into it?  Because God is already here, in the suffering and fearful, as well as in those willing to help. “It is I who come to you, though you know me not (Is 45.4-6.).” We pray to our compassionate God not just for ourselves, but in solidarity with one another. Still, I admit, the God- part is the hardest.

If there is any silver lining in this continuing tragedy, it may be that God casts the shadow of the cross over this time, this misery. And where there is the cross, Resurrection following. Jesus was raised up. Faith says, we will be, too.  I think of Martha after the death of Lazarus.  Jesus wanted the tomb opened.  “Lord, by now there will be a stench (John 11.39)” That did not dissuade Jesus. After Jesus prayed, he called out “Lazarus, come out (11.43).” and finally, to the bystanders, Jesus said “Untie him and let him go free (11.44)” That’s the call to us. Acknowledge death and its stench. But be aware that Jesus is praying and working here and now with us, in us. Dare to be the ones who unbind the newly alive and let him/her go free. This is a mentality, a way of thinking which leads to a way of acting. Talk with one another about positive, world-embracing, life-embracing ways to grow. Form small communities of support to do this - communities in which prayer is integral. Send love out into a hurting world.

As we place before Jesus the pain of this time, our God says something like this back to us:  “I cannot prepare you for every choice you’ll need to make or every situation you’ll encounter along the way, but remember that I am the Lord. There is none beside me. Without me, there is no resolution of ill, no growth in humanness, no happiness. With me, the world and you will move closer to wholeness. You are never apart from me. You are never alone. Choose to be with me and you will live.”

~Joan Sobala, SSJ