By my calculations, my family is entering Week Ten of life in quarantine. That’s ten weeks of home-based schooling, limited travel, face masks, social distancing, and closed stores.
It’s also ten weeks of no Mass—ten weeks without our choir, without the sign of peace, and without the fellowship of coffee and donuts afterward.
And ten weeks without Communion.
I miss Jesus. Don’t get me wrong; I still sense his presence in my personal prayer time and as I turn to him at different points during the day. Every Sunday my family gathers around the television to participate in my parish’s virtual liturgy. But still, I miss receiving him, the unseen, perfect Son of God, in my very human, fallible hands. I miss putting the chalice to my lips knowing that he is right there, eager to flood me with his love and grace. And I miss those few precious moments afterward when I feel incredibly close to him and can tell him everything on my heart.
It’s helpful to think that my wait may be coming to an end. Our state is lifting quarantine restrictions slowly and cautiously, and it may be just a matter of weeks before we’re back in church. In the meantime, all I can do is wait and join the psalmist in praying, “When can I enter and see the face of God?” (Psalm 42:3).
Changing My Focus.
But as I wait, I feel that God is teaching me something. He is telling me that rather than focus on what I have lost, I should focus instead on the losses of those who have been hit the hardest by this pandemic. In the United States, tens of thousands have already died from the coronavirus, and hundreds of thousands are currently living with it. More than twenty million people are unemployed right now. Countless parents around the world wake up each morning wondering if they will be able to give their children just a small bowl of rice or a cup of clean water. And Christians in other nations risk their lives just to receive Jesus in Communion a few times a year.
I am thankful that so far, my family and friends have remained healthy, that I still have a secure job, and that we have a full pantry. But during this time, I think God is asking me to open my heart to all the people whose lives have been shattered, both by the pandemic and by other tragedies like war, famine, poverty, and oppression. They are my brothers and sisters, and he is asking me to embrace them in my prayer.
He is also asking me to be more generous in helping them. So every weekend, we buy extra food at the grocery store, and we deliver it to our parish’s food bin. Fortunately, we live close to our church, so we walk there, each of us carrying a grocery bag. I like that it involves more than one person hopping in a car. This way, my kids get to learn about caring for other people as well. My wife, Katie, and I have also made some cuts to our spending so that we can increase our monthly donation to Catholic Charities. It’s not much, but it’s more than we’ve ever done before.
I may not be able to meet Jesus in the Eucharist, but as St. Teresa of Calcutta once put it, I can meet him in “the distressing disguise of the poor.” Everyone can. And no matter when this pandemic ends, that’s an opportunity that will never go away!