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A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: December 5, 2020
By Father Jason Tyler
In early November, I had an opportunity to hear from Catholic hospital officials in Arkansas about their experiences in battling the COVID-19 pandemic. The occasion was the annual meeting of the Healthcare Evangelization Commission, as reported in the Nov. 22 edition of Arkansas Catholic.
In some ways the pandemic is simply the latest chapter in what these professionals always do: heal the sick, minister to the dying and continue the healing ministry of Jesus. In many ways, though, what I have called “Covidic Time” presents challenges they have never faced before, challenges unparalleled within our own lifetime. The challenges are real for those working directly at the patients’ bedside. For those who support the personnel at bedside from behind the scenes, the challenges may be different, but are still very real.
A common theme expressed by the chaplains and pastoral care officials at the hospitals was the need to minister especially to their coworkers in the hospitals. After dealing so long with this pandemic, they must confront a type of “compassion fatigue” and strengthen those who may not even realize they need an extra boost to carry on their good work.
It’s true that a certain type of “virus fatigue” can take its toll on any of us. We get tired of the masks, the social distancing and the great number of changes in life. Yet, I find strength in knowing that all of these steps are part of loving our neighbor as ourselves, loving God’s children among us.
One chaplain mentioned that his team’s approach involved asking, “What gives you hope? What gives you strength? What guides you?”
The questions resonated with me because, when someone thinks about the answers, that person comes to realize that he or she is in fact receiving strength and hope and is in fact being guided. They also struck me as questions that can help all of us reflect on this strange time in which we live.
What gives me hope? Although the number of COVID cases continue to increase, I have hope on a human level because it appears that a vaccine is on the way soon. Spiritually, I am hopeful because I know that God is ultimately in control. Humanity has weathered various pandemics before, and we will get past this one, too.
During Advent, our waiting and preparing for Jesus should also strengthen our hope, knowing that we can trust in God’s promises.
What gives me strength? It’s true that a certain type of “virus fatigue” can take its toll on any of us. We get tired of the masks, the social distancing and the great number of changes in life. Yet, I find strength in knowing that all of these steps are part of loving our neighbor as ourselves, loving God’s children among us.
Jesus didn’t speak about any coronavirus, but he did command us to love one another as he has loved us. Thus, we make the sacrifices that neighborly love requires right now.
Who guides me? When so many things are different in this world, we need Jesus as our guide now more than ever. During this Advent season, we wait for Jesus. We prepare actively for his coming among us. Christmas may look different this year than in other years, but it will still be a joyful celebration of the birth of Jesus — the one who does better than anyone or anything else in giving us hope, giving us strength and guiding us.