A Gospel reflection on Coronavirus by Fr. Barry Fischer

Today we celebrate the Third Sunday of Lent which means we are half-way through our Lenten Journey of prayer, penance and good works.  What a Lent this is turning out to be!  What we in the US and around the world are experiencing with the pandemic upon us, we never imagined when we had the ashes traced on our foreheads a few weeks ago.

The Gospel reading today from John 4:5-42 recounts the story of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the well.  There are many ways one could reflect on that encounter, but today I would like to suggest that it offers us a special invitation for the moment we are experiencing.

Because of the unprecedented disruption of many of our normal activities ranging from classes, sports events, social gatherings involving large crowds, voluntary isolation, quarantines, social distancing, we are all being called to leave our normal routines and practices (many times these are our comfort zones), to necessarily pause, step back, and deal with the quiet time and space that we suddenly have.  Each of us must choose what to do with this time and space.  As Christians on a Lenten journey, we are called to go to the well.  Jesus is there waiting for us and wishes to offer us “living waters”.  As we encounter Him at the well, our dialogue will lead us to discover what is important in our lives and what is not.  The situation we are experiencing due to the current health crisis can help us to see what our real needs are.  Our voluntary social distancing can also help us to see how important relationships are in our life and sharpens our awareness of how we care for one another in our university community, in our homes, and in society.  This is a time for us to move from a “me” mentality to a “we” mentality. Almsgiving, one of the pillars of Lenten practices, is calling us to be especially aware of the importance of protecting our elderly and persons with underlying medical conditions and compromised immune systems from a serious risk to their health. 

Many of us have probably resolved to give up something for Lent (Penances).  I believe this crisis is calling us to even give up for now some of our cherished religious traditions until this crisis is resolved.  Those who are sick or with symptoms of a cold or flu as well as the elderly should refrain from participating in our Sunday liturgies (this is permitted by our Church), and urged to make read the Scriptures of the Sunday and reflect and pray over them with friends or family and to make a spiritual communion if unable to receive.

Among the Franciscan values that we in the Marian community profess are the dignity of the individual and solidarity.  We will rise from this crisis which will draw the best out of us.  This is indeed a very special Lenten journey we are embarked on this year, maybe not like the one we had planned but Jesus is calling us to the well and offering us the opportunity to grow in intimacy with Him and to witness to one another the love and compassion of our God.  As the second reading from Paul to the Romans 5:1-2, 6-8 reminds us that, “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”  As we drink from the living waters of Jesus, may our hearts overflow to nourish and quench the thirst and needs of those around us.

God bless and stay healthy!

Fr. Barry Fischer
Campus Chaplain