We may never again get a chance like this – let’s not squander it!
While to a certain degree returning to “business as usual” will not likely happen, that does not mean the vast majority of those who hold most of the world’s wealth and power will not use every advantage at their disposal in trying to hold onto broken, corrupt, unjust systems – what St. John Paul II called “structures of sin” – which feed their greed while starving the morally just aspirations of the world’s poor and vulnerable.
And so, what should each follower of Jesus do?
We should sincerely pray for the spiritual conversion of the rich and powerful. And we should oppose them!
We need to put on the nonviolent fight of our lives to ensure that we don’t sleepwalk ourselves right back into a morally sick “normal.”
Old habits die hard, both individually and structurally. After the coronavirus pandemic, the sinful structures of raw profit-centered capitalism and death-dealing militarism will surely continue marching on; crushing underfoot the poor, vulnerable and the planet itself unless we humbly admit our significant personal indifference, repent and strive to transform ourselves and these structures of sin.
Pope Francis, in his recent homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, warned that as the world looks forward to the eventual recovery from the pandemic, “there is a danger that we will forget those who are left behind. The risk is that we may then be struck by an even worse virus, that of selfish indifference. A virus spread by the thought that life is better if it is better for me. It begins there and ends up selecting one person over another, discarding the poor, and sacrificing those left behind on the altar of progress.”
The Holy Father continued, “The present pandemic, however, reminds us that there are no differences or borders between those who suffer. We are all frail, all equal, all precious. May we be profoundly shaken by what is happening all around us. The time has come to eliminate inequalities, to heal the injustice that is undermining the health of the entire human family” (see: https://bit.ly/2yWKH6P).
In every parish, diocese, civic, academic, business, labor and social forum we need to start dialoguing, planning and organizing ways to build structures and systems that work for everyone – from the moment of conception to natural death – where no one gets left behind and everyone has a seat at the table.
And we need to develop strategies on how best to influence and pressure government and corporate leaders (e.g. boycotts, divestment) to put the common good and the care of the planet as their top priorities – not power and profit (see: https://gofossilfree.org/divestment/what-isfossil-fuel-divestment/).
All of this can easily tempt each of us to feel overwhelmed.
But it is essential not to allow ourselves to become overwhelmed. It’s not all up to you and me. The Holy Spirit is with us. Each of us in our own personal sphere of influence (e.g. family, friends, parish, workplace, social media, lobbying) can make a difference.
In their courageous 1983 pastoral letter on war and peace titled “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response,” the U.S. Catholic bishops wrote: “Let us have the courage to believe in the bright future and in a God who wills it for us – not a perfect world, but a better one. The perfect world, we Christians believe, is beyond the horizon, in an endless eternity where God will be all in all. But a better world is here for human hands and hearts and minds to make.”
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.