Zooming in and Zooming Out
“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.