in his prologue to his latest book, he writes “Think of what we’ve seen during this Covid-19 crisis. All those martyrs, men and women who have laid down their lives in service to those most in need. Think of the health workers, the doctors and nurses and other caregivers, as well as the chaplains and all who choose to accompany others in their pain . . . .
“Taking the necessary precautions, they sought to offer others support and consolation. They were witnesses to closeness and tenderness. Many, tragically, died. To honour their witness, and the suffering of so many, we have to build tomorrow by following the paths they have lit for us . . . .
“But – and I say this with pain and shame – let us also think of the usurers, the pay-day lenders who have appeared at the doors of desperate people. If they stretch out their hands, it is to offer loans that can never be repaid and which end up permanently indebting those who accept them. Such lenders speculate with the sufferings of others . . . .
“Think of governments having to choose in the pandemic. What matters more: to take care of people or keep the financial system going? Do we look after people or sacrifice them for the sake of the market? Do we put the machinery of wealth on hold, knowing people will suffer, yet that way we save lives? In some cases governments have tried to protect the economy first, have mortgaged their people . . . .
“Some respond to the suffering of a crisis with a shrug. They say, ‘God made the world that way, that’s just how it is.’ . . . . But the world is always being made. God has invited us from the beginning to be partners in Creation . . . . From this crisis we can come out better or worse. We can slide backward, or we can create something new . . . .
“The Covid crisis affects most of mankind. There are a thousand other crisis that are just as dire, but are just far enough from some of us that we can act as if they don’t exist. Think, for example, of the wars scattered across different parts of the world; of the production and trade in weapons; of the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing poverty, hunger and lack of opportunity; of climate change. These tragedies may seem distant from us, as part of the daily news that, sadly, fails to move us to change our agendas and priorities. But like the Covid crisis, they affect the whole of humanity . . . .
“Just look at the figures, what nations spend on weapons, and your blood runs cold. Then compare those figures with UNICEF’s statistics on how many children lack schooling and go to bed hungry, and you realise who pays the price for arms spending. In the first four months of 2020 3.7 million people died of hunger. And how many have died from war? Arms spending destroys humanity. It is a very serious coronavirus, but because its victims are hidden from us we don’t talk about it . . . .
“Similarly hidden to some is the destruction of the natural world. We thought it didn’t affect us, because it was happening elsewhere. But suddenly we see it and we realise the distant floods and forest fires are part of the same crisis that involves us all . . . .
“Look at us now: we put on facemasks to protect ourselves and others from a virus we can’t see. But what about all those other unseen viruses, the hidden pandemics of this world – of hunger and violence and climate change? . . . . . This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities – what we value, what we want, what we seek – and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of. Isaiah heard God saying: ‘Come, let us talk this over. Let us dare to dream.’ Let us talk about how.”
Let us allow God’s words to Isaiah to speak to us. Let us follow Pope Francis’ dream.
God bless us,
(21st February 2021)