Just a short post at a busy time. While I understand the impulse, and have to manage my own desire for it, I am praying about the panic buying in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
Our focus should always be on some kind of life oriented to others, not ourselves. During Lent, the need to practice this way of living becomes even more clear. What does it mean if we give up chocolate, social media, or alcohol, but buy a case of toilet paper? Whatever our Lenten practice is, how does panic buying bring us closer to God? I’m not asking about the desire to panic buy, but rather the act itself. The desire is no surprise, the act is where we encounter something deeper. And if we have done the panic buying, how will we proceed with both the material goods and the internal spiritual journey?
My panic buying has not really materialized. I went to the supermarket over the weekend and saw these empty shelves. I was going to buy more, I’m not going to lie about that, but I would be lying if I did not mention that I have adequate cleaning supplies and toilet paper at home.
I’m reminded of how every single time Jesus wanted to feed a large crowd, the apostles got into a panic about how to get food. For example, this from Matthew 14:15:
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus then responds in Matthew 14:16-18:
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,”
This is why as Catholics we cannot be taking the Scriptures in a literal way. This may have been the problem with the disciples. The problem is not that we question Jesus, the problem is that we typically do not listen to him, and that we never really appropriate the life he models for us, the life he commands us to live.
We are so frequently told in Scripture to not be afraid. Isaiah says it so clearly in 41:10:
Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you…
There is no shaming or blaming here. Believe me – I have my own things to work on – which is why I am writing about it today. Together, as we travel this Lenten path in community, what can we pray with and how can we pray? And how can we live, as Gandhi so brilliantly put it, how can we “live simply, so that others may simply live.”? I’m pretty sure that toilet paper is not the answer.
Let us walk together so that we might do the same, helping one another through struggles as we encourage one another along the way. Whatever we do, let us do it with this thought in mind – do not be afraid.