Our Fragility

Covid-19 is telling us a great deal about our own fragility.

Covid-19 is telling us a great deal about our own fragility. It is also shattering any illusions that might previously have existed, of us humans being in control. All we’re doing is limiting damage and trying to cope. In situations like this, people who normally wouldn’t pray or seek God are known to start looking for help from above. The phrase ‘no atheists in foxholes’ comes to mind. 

But do faith and prayer make a difference? In Bible times, which as far as we can tell were more religious than ours, sickness and premature death were ever-present. The lack of vaccines, antibiotics and A&E wards made sure of that. And it strikes me that, during his public ministry, Jesus didn’t cure everyone. His healings seem to have been, first and foremost, prophetic symbols of God restoring a sick and broken world at the end of time. Meanwhile, people kept on encountering illness and suffering on nearly every street corner – daily reminders of their own mortality. 

'Teach us to count our days' the psalmist prays (Psalm 90.12). Covid-19 is a wakeup call: time is limited. Yet, if all this does is to make us panic, we’ve missed an opportunity. People in the Baroque age lived by the motto, 'Memento mori; carpe diem': Remember you must die and, therefore, seize the day. Although four centuries old, this seems very much the motto of our age: grasp life and, while you can, squeeze out as much fun and fulfilment as you can possibly manage. The psalmist, on the other hand, goes deeper; the purpose of counting his days is to 'gain a wise heart'. 

Jesus tells the story of a farmer who acquired great material wealth while remaining spiritually empty. The moment he dies, his foolishness is exposed (Luke 12.13-21). Covid-19 invites us to choose; either to wait for it all to blow over so we can throw ourselves back into consumerism and milk this short life for all it's worth; or to seek God and become a wiser person in the process, however much or little time we might have left. 

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