My dear sisters and brothers,
As communities across our country and indeed the whole world have struggled to adapt in an age of pandemic, almost all places have found it necessary to implement guidelines and restrictions. These have included stay-at-home directives, distancing guidelines, and the wearing of masks in public or any place where one is in contact with others.
Often when these directives have been issued, we have been told that we take these measures with “an abundance of caution.” This acknowledges that in reality there is far more we do not know about the COVID-19 virus than what we do know. It may come to pass that some of our precautions have been excessive, though, from all indications with surging numbers, we may need to enact even more restrictive measures.
An abundance of caution is a good guideline. Is that not a wise and prudent measure in any realm of life? If we all spoke with an abundance of caution, imagine how many hurtful words would never be uttered?
I want to propose yet a higher standard for caution and courtesy as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. I suggest that our standard for caution be an “abundance of charity.” Not all the restrictions we have been asked to embrace are easy. Wearing a mask can be irritating and unpleasant. For some people it may be such an obstacle that they would chose as best they can not to be in public. I have experienced extreme coughs at times well before this pandemic that have led me to avoid public places. Yes, I do these things out of an abundance of caution but even more so out of abundance of charity.
When we act with an abundance of charity, we demonstrate a concern for our neighbor. Would there ever be a proper time to not exercise charity to the greatest degree that we can? Jesus taught us that the greatest commandment is to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength. He said the second commandment is like the first, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This second commandment leads us to the golden rule to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
From these commandments comes the Church’s teaching on what we call the common good. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “In keeping with the social nature of man, the good of each individual is necessarily related to the common good, which in turn can be defined in reference to the human person.” The Catechism even prescribes that it is the role of the state to defend and promote the common good of civil society, its citizens, and intermediate bodies.
Though the national and worldwide trends regarding the virus are not encouraging, Christians are people with hope. The Resurrection of Jesus is our prime cause for hope. Even in the face of the death of Jesus, the Son of God, we are assured that we are never abandoned. Though the reality of a pandemic may require us to distance ourselves from one other, to mask our faces, to forego many of the good things of human community and interaction, we are never separated from the love of God.
In the eighth chapter of his letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes: “I am certain of this: neither death not life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
People of hope, as followers of Jesus we are called to “go the extra mile.” As we accept the restrictions we face, let us strive to embrace them with as much cheerfulness as possible. If we act with an abundance of charity God will indeed hear our prayers.
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend William F. Medley
Diocese of Owensboro
Originally printed in the August 2020 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.
Copyright © 2020 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic