Zooming in and Zooming Out

source: medium.com

“It’s the new normal” I’m told by many, in a matter-of-fact way. The global village is dealing with a pandemic that requires wearing masks, making a few necessary trips to the store, and ensuring that we stay far apart from others. Even eye contact is often avoided when out for a walk!

It is a surreal existence, almost like peeping in on a chaotic world spinning on another axis. A nephew said something quite profound the other day, “Accept, and adapt.” It has become my mantra as I try to navigate new waters.

Who would have thought a few months ago, that once the churches opened, going to Sunday Mass would require a reservation and a ticket!  The long list of guidelines requires trained volunteers, to direct the congregation to follow the appropriate protocol. It almost feels like we are being chained when we worship God.

However, the Gospel message stays the same. It is important to note, that St. Paul while chained in prison said, “The word of God is not chained.” (2 Timothy 2:9) God’s Word will be proclaimed, and the body of Christ starved for the Bread of Life will adjust to different ways of participating in the sacred liturgy.

Then there is Zoom, the pandemic’s social network until recently foreign to me. I found my calendar suddenly filling up with family Zoom meetings. It wasn’t just the immediate family get-togethers, but cousins from different parts of Canada and the United States, India, and even Brazil smiling back at us.

It is not a big surprise that Zoom daily users spiked to 200 million in March, up from 10 million in December!

The social Zoom calls were okay, till I was requested to lead our regular prayer meetings on it. I had never prayed this way, and was hesitant to do so. After some prayer and discernment I decided to give it a try. Several people singing a hymn on Zoom sounds like a cat’s chorus of screeches and static. Everyone saying prayers together has the same result.

We’ve now learned to have one person recite a Hail Mary, while another replies, and the rest are muted. After forty minutes Zoom kicks you out, and everyone has to log back on. The prayerful mood seems lost, but as a friend said nonchalantly, “What to do!”

I am reassured when I recall what Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You have to accept whatever comes, and the only important thing is that you meet it with the best you have to give.”

While Zoom has been good in that I have recently done two Bible courses, and attended many Webinars, the lack of social interaction can be frustrating. Distance learning is less effective. In a virtual world, human contact is sadly missing.

It can be exhausting too, because we are constantly waiting for the next person to speak, and often there is an overlap of conversation.

Interestingly enough, another kind of zoom has happened during the lockdown. I have been able to zoom into a deeper union with God. Henri Nouwen’s The Spirituality of Living has made me aware of what is required to be a disciple – Solitude, Community, and Ministry.

In solitude I have encountered God, and listened to the good news, that we are all beloved children of a loving God. Being part of a human family makes us want to live it out together.

Unfortunately the pandemic has torn apart our parish communities, only connected by the occasional Zoom meeting.

Yet as Nouwen says, “Solitude is the very ground from which community grows. Whenever we pray alone, study, read, write or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we are potentially opened for a deeper intimacy with each other.” If community is “solitude meeting solitude,” when we come together in this community we are called to ministry.

Jesus is inviting us to continue his mission of revealing God’s perfect love in the world. Given the current situation, I must confess that I am a reluctant online evangelizer, but taking baby steps with God’s help. It is hard work to evangelize on Zoom, wondering if my feeble efforts are bearing fruit.

On further reflection, I realize that I am only the messenger. It is God who works on human hearts. Jesus’ words encourage me, “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20)

Sitting in the crucible of crisis, I recall Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem Ring Out, Wild Bells,

“Ring out the old, ring in the new… .Ring in the Christ that is to be.”

Till we develop a vaccine against COVID-19, things really can’t be the way they used to be, so we have to settle into the new normal.

I find myself praying to St. Padre Pio who bore the stigmata, and lived through the devastating Spanish flu of 1917/18. His repeated phrase was, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”

God might want to use me in some way. It may not be as spectacular as Philip, who zoomed in prompted by the Spirit, to explain a passage from Isaiah to a travelling Ethiopian eunuch in a carriage, baptize him, and zoom out again. (Acts 8:27-40)

Wearing a colourful mask, I think that I’m ready to face our rapidly changing world equipped with the armour of Christ.

Viola Athaide is a student in the Windows of Theology program at Regis College, Toronto. She currently teaches Scripture at her local parish church.

  • Sylvia Lee
    Posted at 11:50h, 29 June Reply

    Thank you your sharing your honest points of view, Viola.

    “Accept and adopt” the new normal as suggested. We have to admit face to face contact is sadly missing these days but fortunately we have the electronic tools to help in some ways.

    I started praying to St. Padre Pio too. We pray, we hope and we don’t worry.

    Stay safe and healthy !

  • Ana Maria Rodriguez
    Posted at 13:46h, 29 June Reply

    God is never chained BUT WE are being re-educated by God . Have you forgotten about me??? I am always with you remember! Accept and adapt , the best is to come ! I love you dearly
    Thank you Viola

  • Carol von Zuben
    Posted at 13:48h, 29 June Reply

    Thank you Viola for such a generous offering. This will certainly take me time to digest but please know that I am most grateful .

  • Dominicus Susilo
    Posted at 13:58h, 29 June Reply

    Viola, I Love what you have very well written,. You are coincidentally expressing my sentiment in The Zoom meetings, with tge attemp to keep intack The social connection despites The physical distancing. It is not The same anymore. But this is what we have and thus we have to accept and try to still be grateful.

    May The Merciful Lord help us to overcome this period of trial and may soon allow us to get together again as before in our Great Family org Faith, Hope and Live! Keep “prayerful”….. May The Heaker Of Healers be protecting us, always!

  • Dominicus Susilo
    Posted at 14:06h, 29 June Reply

    sorry for a few typing errors; Among others like;
    -With The attamp to….
    -The Great Family Of: Faith, Hope and Love
    -May The Healer Of Healers…..

  • Linda Rego
    Posted at 20:31h, 29 June Reply

    Viola, Thank you for your reflection on zooming. I especially appreciated the story of Philip zooming around in Biblical times. The US Army has an adage regarding any challenge, “Adapt and Overcome”.
    I think this is appropriate as we are challenged in this time of Covid.

  • Teresa
    Posted at 06:04h, 30 June Reply

    This is so very well said Viola! The reality of the new world we live in.
    But I am very thankful that zoom is there to enable us to continue our weekly prayer together.
    Thank you and God bless

  • Lorella D'Cruz
    Posted at 07:52h, 30 June Reply

    I can identify with your sense of frustration with Zooming – but it’s better than nothing! And you’ve distilled the important message in Father Pio’s injunction to pray, hope, and not worry. You’re doing well, Viola. God bless you.

  • Rosa Scarpino
    Posted at 10:12h, 03 July Reply

    Thank you Viola for the wonderful article and for your wisdom. We always thank and praise the Lord for providing the technology that allows many dedicated people like you to put it to good use for His glory and for the good of others. May God bless you and continue to use you in this ministry. Rosa.

  • catherine schwan
    Posted at 10:46h, 03 July Reply

    Thank-you Viola for such a wonderful reflection on our current times! It is a wonderful reminder that God is the constant in our lives no matter how much change we encounter! God Bless, Cathy Schwan

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