Empty streets, solitary figures, lone persons, silent houses, separated communities. Physical distancing and isolation has been our life for the past weeks. It looks like for some future weeks this may well be what we experience. Most of us find this difficult, very difficult. Yet it is for the best. Such distancing is our major protection from the virus that we face.
Jesus was always a social person. In the Gospels we most often see and hear him as he is gathered with his disciples, his friends, with crowds. Any alone time for Jesus is in his prayer. For him to be alone is that he be prepared for more encounters with others. Both his message and his mission were not just for himself, it was intended for others, for his disciples, for the crowd – and for all humanity.
We are all social creatures. It is the way God made us, that we may have life for one another. The 17th century English poet, John Donne (1572-1631) reflected on this reality of humanity in one of his poems:
“No person is an island entire of itself; every person is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
[if a part of an island is washed away by the sea, the island is the less for it]; any person’s death diminishes me, for I am part of [the same] humanity.” (Paraphrase of Donne, “No Man is an Island”)
The isolation and physical distancing we do in the face of Covid-19 is protection not solely, or even primarily to protect ourselves. More important, it is that we may protect others. It is done so that we do not carry and pass it on to our families, our friends and our communities. It is, in fact, an act of love for others - that they might have life. It is an action and gift in which we reflect our loving, life-giving God. We stand in solidarity with all humanity particularly the vulnerable and the suffering in care and love.
Reflect: “With the Lord there is steadfast love, and with the Lord is great power to redeem” (Ps.130) How can I express God’s love and compassion, in isolation and physical distancing?