Walking into the Present Moment with “Eyes wide Open”

March 15, 2020, The Third Sunday in Lent
“My eyes are always on the Lord, for God rescues my feet from the snare”
Ps 24:15

Greetings and love,

I’ve been thinking and meditating a lot more than usual, and wanted to send a brief note. Meditating is a bit easier to do these days since I have a cold. Seemingly bad timing with Covid-19 hitting my area of the country significantly, now. But then, when is there ever a “good time” to catch a cold?

Of course, I have self-quarantined to protect me and others. I know this is something many have been doing.

With permission, I am sharing a poem sent to me today from a friend in London, written by a Franciscan friar, that points to the gifts that can be received, if only we elect to see the world “with eyes-wide open.”
The friar wrote this poem:

“Lockdown

Yes there is fear.

Yes there is isolation.

Yes there is panic buying.

Yes there is sickness.

Yes there is even death.

But,

They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise

You can hear the birds again.

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet

The sky is no longer thick with fumes

But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi

People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,

keeping their windows open

so that those who are alone

may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland

Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.

Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood

So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting

All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way

All over the world people are waking up to a new reality

To how big we really are.

To how little control we really have.

To what really matters.

To Love.

So we pray and we remember that

Yes there is fear.

But there does not have to be hate.

Yes there is isolation.

But there does not have to be loneliness.

Yes there is panic buying.

But there does not have to be meanness.

Yes there is sickness.

But there does not have to be disease of the soul

Yes there is even death.

But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.

Today, breathe.

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic

The birds are singing again

The sky is clearing,

Spring is coming,

And we are always encompassed by Love.

Open the windows of your soul

And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,

Sing.”

by Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM

I’ve been watching the many ways that people have responded to the coronavirus, and asking what aspect of human nature will it bring out in us?

This poem is so filled with Pure Love, I simply wanted to share it!

An editorial in a major US newspaper claimed: The Christian Response to the Coronavirus: Stay Home. Self-quarantining may well be a very sagacious option (or mandate in some areas); health care experts highly recommend it.

In a different article, a pundit offered easy things we can do: call an elderly neighbor or relative to simply chat so they don’t feel isolated, or ask if they need groceries or medications when you eventually venture out for the brief foray to get “essentials.” Call your local soup kitchen, food pantry, or homeless shelter to see if they have needs for which you might safely assist.

On the one hand, we hear of reports from the darker, self-centered, side of human nature—-something that a theologian I had in Maryknoll Seminary called, “pathological death resistance.” Humanity has a choice to always view the world with “eyes-wide shut” and with greed and hubris.

By way of example just from the media today:
“A woman at an Australian supermarket allegedly pulls a knife on a man in a confrontation over toilet paper. A Singaporean student of Chinese ethnicity is beaten up on the streets of London and left with a fractured face. Protesters on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion welcome cruise passengers by hurling abuse and rocks at them….

The coronavirus risks bringing out the worst in humanity….

Never mind that Australia’s toilet paper supply is plentiful, that the Singaporean has no links to the virus and that not a single passenger on the Princess cruise ship that docked in Reunion was infected….

Irrational and selfish incidents like these are likely the exception, not the rule, but an everyone-for-themselves mentality — or each family, even each country — appears to be growing, putting into question the world’s ability to unite and slow the coronavirus’ spread.”

But the above poem by the friar shows the best side in us!….A side filled with love, light, hope, gratitude, thanksgiving, and life-affirming kindness—even (especially!) in times like this.

The administrator for the incoming Archbishop of Atlanta, (Bishop Hartmayer, Franciscan, soon to be installed), wrote in a pastoral letter, that these ways of acting are not unique to this moment. They are, or should be, the norm. “We all need to be present to those on the margins who may be fearful and vulnerable right now” (Most Reverend Joel M. Konzen, S.M.).

This has always been the call of all faith families and faith traditions, all spiritualities, and also for those with no faith or spiritual belief, other than in the goodness of humanity. And, as Fr. Konzen wrote, “The mission of the Church continues, even if it looks a little different [now] than before.”

History gives us many, many examples, for instance, The Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964 surprised everyone by showing that natural disasters can bring out more kindness than selfishness.

I’ll not linger on the examples of “love conquering all.” We can all recite so many.

As Benedictines in this time of global uncertainty, we perform acts of mercy and we encourage others. St Benedict reminds us, “Place your hope in God alone. If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God…” (Regula 4:41-42).

My wish this afternoon, as sunshine pours golden rays into the sunroom where I sit in isolation, is for many blessings for you, and not to forget the Hebrew Prophet Nehemiah’s words:

“Today is holy to your God….Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in God must be your strength!” Nehemiah 8:9, 10

In love,

Brother Nicholas, Obl.S.B.


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