By Fr. Brain Vale, SSC
In these strange days I have been reading and reflecting about the theology of the Universe as God’s body (metaphor). God delights in God’s creation all around us but at the moment large areas of God’s body have the corona virus and are sick. Our God is transcendent but also immanent and so God is holding this suffering Universe within God’s self. Our triune God is suffering in this too.
Here in Kowloon I have been keeping mostly within the boundaries of our small property for exercise. I noticed on my walks a small bush in our GC garden here which has tiny white flowers and their nectar is attracting the local bee community and the occasional small bird. It seems the bees are healthy and do not need to practice social distancing although I have not followed them back to their beehive to check on them. It is a delight to see that they are continuing with their bee life and I am sure God is enjoying their work as much as I have enjoyed watching them.
With all the massive unemployment, social disruption and restrictions on our movements caused by the pandemic most of us are experiencing a strong sense of powerlessness. The Easter ceremonies accentuated these feelings for me as I followed Jesus during Holy Week. We passed through days of waiting after the Passion and have been through the joy of the Resurrection of Jesus but there is still more waiting to pass through before moving out into a different life. Many of us are experiencing a different sense of powerlessness. It is as though we are living in a liminal phase, a space which encourages growth but we are not there yet…..
Some good people are helping us with advice online on how to cope with the grief we are experiencing in these days of tension, isolation and loss. We will have quite a deal more grieving to do. There may be a sense of “cosmic grief” as the whole universe is affected by a virus which seems to have originated from humans improperly containing animals in “wet markets”. The local bees seem to be coping well but what of the broader Universe? What kind of prayer and liturgy will we need to express these relationships as we come through this liminal phase? Social harmony has been tested in many communities and in the political world some leaders are not leading well. Cross cultural communication is our charism to be shared and we can rebuild the relationships of trust with people of other faiths and cultures as well as heal our relationships with the natural world.
It is claimed that the Manuka honey from bees in my home country have healing properties so the bees I chat with in our garden are reminding me that there is also a lot of recovery and healing going on in the world. Our Healer God is alive in the health care people and in those researching for a vaccine for the corona virus. There is a strong sense of communal gratitude for the generosity and concern of so many people, especially the frontline health workers.
Where else is the infinite creativity of the Triune God emerging as we move beyond the suffering toward transformation, liberation, and new life? Hopefully some of it is in our renewed efforts to change our lifestyles and reduce our reliance on fuels which are damaging our environment. Everything is interconnected. I am relating to the Universe/Nature in new ways and I am are aware that global warming/climate change is the major concern for the future.
Fr. Brian Vale is a priest of the Missionary Society of St. Columban and serves as its Vicar General. Previously he has been working in Japan and New Zealand and more recently has spent the last 8 years in Christian - Muslim Relations in our Columban Mission Institute in Sydney.
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