COVID-19 has shaped a new world, one without the gift, comfort and challenge of the sacrments. It has deprived us of physical community; this year, there will be no communal sharing of he Gospel, no distribution of palm, no blessings, no Holy Week schedule. But this unimaginable lack of access to the sacraments is actually an opportunity to discover the reality of the sacred, the divine. There, in every breath, the beauty of the sacred resides.
In the glimpse of a sunrise and the openness of a blue sky, there is hidden the hand of the Creator. There is a divine spark in the laughter of children and the smiles of partners. That spark is there, too, in the tears of grief and the exhaustion of volunteers. That divine spark is ever-present in the world, and in this time of uncertainty, fear and ambiguity, the sacred needs to be recognized, known, more than ever.
The sacred rests in social distancing, in neighbors reaching out, in sharing resources. It is there in families coming together and in the countless drive bys for grandparents, the visits to nursing home windows and the selfless service of volunteers. It is there in the acts of kindness: pizza deliveries to emergency rooms, dancing in the streets in Buffalo at 5 pm and cheering for health care workers at 7 in New York City. It is there in the live stream concerts by celebrities and the FaceTiming between friends, in the lines winding along the sidewalks outside grocery stores, in the rainbows fastened to windows and the Christmas lights that offer hope.
We have re-aligned our lives to virtual experiences in teleworking and distance learning. We are grieving the loss of jobs and income, moments lost forever, and the horror of the beloved dying alone. We are struggling to grasp the reality of viral transmissions and safety precautions, to be respectful of needs and somehow come together to battle an enemy who has so humbled us.
We have known the cost of indifference and ignorance; we have learned that the global community can be united in tragedy and loss. And in the waves of loss, of disbelief, there are new realities. Our governments are not omniscient; in the democracies of the world, citizenship carries a responsibility that echoes the sacred, the divine spark. In the absence of all else, recognizing the importance of each person’s responsibilty to the next person is critical. There, in the new bonds that are emerging, there lives the sacred.
This year, we cannot affirm the sacred through the sacraments, but there is no doubt that we can sense the divine in the new simplicity of our very ordinary lives. We have learned that we may be physically separated, but that does not in any way mean we are isolated. What is sacred is here all the while, visible to every seeing heart, inviting us to become sacraments to one another. Sacraments are the reminder of the gift of community; the sacred, the divine spark, is the source of all that. And, somehow, that is easier to see in the midst of this pandemic.