There are so many lessons that each of us can draw from our experience of the past 12 months. We have learned things about our world, about society, about our governments and politicians, and about life in a pandemic. Most of all, we have learned things about ourselves, our needs, our longing for the things we miss, and what really matters in life. Our true needs as human beings have rarely been more obvious to us. We don't really need fancy cars or the latest gadget. We need close, loving relationships with our family and friends. We don't really need expensive clothes or more Facebook friends. We need real contact, genuine care, and experiences of love and closeness with each other.
For many of us, the pandemic has shown us things about our deeper needs in life. The needs of our hearts that we can't see and that we can so easily overlook. Things like our need for meaning and purpose, our need for faith, hope, and love, and ultimately our need for God. Like when we experience illness or the passing of a loved one, the pandemic reveals our need for something much bigger than ourselves.
Certainly, physical health is a priority. God has given us a body to care for, and we need our bodies to live! But we are not only bodies, and we must also care for our spiritual health. Our well-being is not only dependent on vaccines and social distancing. Our deepest well-being is dependent on being connected to God and one another.
Obviously, the means that we can use to connect ourselves to God and each other can't necessarily look the same during the pandemic as they did before COVID. But this does not mean that our spiritual health is less important or that we can simply forgo our connections to God and one another. We cannot succumb to the idea that our spiritual health can be easily pushed to the back burner. We must protect our physical health and the health of others while at the same time caring for our spiritual health and theirs.
There is a double question for us. First, what are our spiritual needs, the spiritual needs of those around us, and the spiritual needs of the world at this time? Next, what can we do to respond to those spiritual needs?
The world has so many needs at this time, what can we do to pray for the world, for our communities, for our government and Church leaders? What can we do to pray for those in need, those who have died and lost loved ones, those who have lost their jobs, those who are in financial hardship, those who suffer domestic violence, those who are homeless in the middle of winter? Praying for them is the first step to caring for them and doing what we can to help those in need. How is God calling us to reach out to each other and care for one another's needs?
Now is also a significant time for our faith. What can we do to develop a closer relationship with God? Talking to God simply as a loving Father or caring friend. Listening to Christian music or spiritual songs from time to time at home. Praying with your family members or friends. Going for a walk with God. Encountering Jesus by reading the Gospels. Writing a letter to God or journalling. Finding a dynamic, nourishing Mass online to follow from home. Going to pray at church and receiving the sacraments whenever possible. Talking about faith or God in a personal way in your everyday conversations. Telling someone you're praying for them. There are so many innovative ways of building up our spiritual life, like taking one day a week away from screens to focus more on those around us, the beauty of nature, and God's presence with us. We can offer little sacrifices that we do at home for the good of those we love and those in need.
Now is a time when we need hope. How can we choose to speak positively and hopefully even when we are tempted to lament, gossip, or complain? How can we encourage or console someone who's going through a particularly rough time? What can we do to dream of what life can be like after this pandemic and take concrete steps to lay the groundwork already?
Now is a time when we need to feel loved. What can we do to share God's love with others? Calling someone we haven't spoken to in a long time just to see how they're doing. Doing something special for someone you care about. Love replenishes our soul and keeps us close to one another.
Caring for our spiritual needs during COVID requires being creative. But we can do so much good for ourselves and for others when we find ways of enriching our spiritual health and theirs. We all need a spiritual boost, especially amid this pandemic! Social distancing does not mean spiritual separation or spiritual drought. What can we do to stay united with God and one another on a deeper level and refresh our spiritual lives?
How is God inviting you to connect with Him and others more deeply? The season of Lent that begins next week with Ash Wednesday is the perfect opportunity to use this present crisis as a time of spiritual growth and rejuvenation. Let yourself be renewed and refreshed by deep closeness with God and with others. God is here with us, and He rejoices when we find little ways of plugging into Him and help others to do the same. We can be assured that He will help us every step of the way. He is always close to us, right with us wherever we are. Let us open ourselves to Him.
Julian would be happy to hear from you, with any questions, insights, or suggestions you may have regarding this blog series. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julian Paparella is a theology student at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies in Rome. Born and raised in London, Ontario, he has worked in pastoral ministry in Montreal and Paris, especially with young people. Julian strives to communicate our faith in a way that resonates with everyday life, helping people to better experience God today. He is married to Marion.