The Year 2020 has jolted humankind into reflecting on existing cultural, moral, and socio-economic norms. Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 virus has succeeded in immobilizing the usually frenetic movements of people. Consequently, the whole world is up in arms versus government restrictions. With no definitive solution in sight, it is time to gaze into the future: to take the high road or the low road?
In his latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis stated that “The pain, uncertainty and fear, and the realization of our own limitations, brought on by the pandemic have only made it all the more urgent that we rethink our styles of life, our relationships, the organization of our societies and, above all, the meaning of our existence.” As we gaze into the future, we need to resolve within ourselves the existential question: to take the high road or the low road?
The High Road: A Call for Heroism
Interestingly, St. Josemaria Escriva posed a similar aphorism early in his life, as seen in Point no. 23 of the book, The Way, as follows:
“You say that you can’t do more? Could it not be that… you can’t do less?”St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way
Today, Point no. 23 still remains quite apropos. Despite its simplistic play on words, St. Josemaria asks a rhetorical question that serves as a relevant point for self-examination. In essence, it pries open man’s inner vulnerabilities that need be confronted during this crisis. In particular, it seeks to enjoin everyone to rise up to the challenge of heeding the call for heroism, particularly during this COVID-19 times.
Surprisingly, despite all the havoc brought about on mankind, this pandemic has somehow illuminated a radiance of hope. This hope is personified by the new breed of self-sacrificing heroes: doctors, nurses, caregivers, shop keepers, janitors, street cleaners, messengers, and other types of workers. These are the heretofore unrecognized persons who have placed themselves on the line despite the risk of death for the sake of the common good of society. Indeed, they have taken the high road!
Be a Good Samaritan or a Bystander
In rallying everyone to take the high road, Pope Francis points out that the social milieu of today may be likened to the characters in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. He said: “Each day we have to decide whether to be Good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders. And if we extend our gaze to the history of our own lives and that of the entire world, all of us are or have been, as each of the characters in the parable. All of us have in ourselves something of the wounded man, something of the robber, something of the passers-by, and something of the Good Samaritan.”1 Hence, the Pope asks: “Which of these characters do you resemble? We need to acknowledge that we are constantly tempted to ignore others, especially the weak. Let us admit that…we have become accustomed to looking the other way, passing by, ignoring situations until they affect us directly.”2
Furthermore, the Pope continues: “the parable eloquently presents the basic decision we need to make in order to rebuild our wounded world. In the face of so much pain and suffering, our only course is to imitate the Good Samaritan. Any other decision would make us either one of the robbers or one of those who walked by without showing compassion for the sufferings of the man on the roadside. The parable shows us how a community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject the creation of a society of exclusion and act instead as neighbors, lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good. At the same time, it warns us about the attitude of those who think only of themselves and fail to shoulder the inevitable responsibilities of life as it is.”3
To be a Protagonist
In essence, each one of us is a protagonist in this COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot shirk from responsibility. One’s choice of action, on a daily basis, would have implications as to the final outcome of this crisis. As the Pontiff emphatically said: ”The pandemic is changing the world and putting us in crisis. It is impossible to emerge from a crisis the same as before. Either we come out better or we come out worse. And how we emerge depends on the decisions we make during the crisis.”4
To Take the High Road
Indeed, we need to come out of this crisis better. Otherwise, we fail and come out worse. Therefore, it behooves us to take the high road of greater sacrifice. After all, as each of us commits to exert one’s best efforts each day, then, we can only rest assured that it will ultimately foster solidarity and contribute to the common good.
Fall in Love and it will Decide Everything
Finally, I would like to share with you a quotation, which hopefully will inspire you to take the high road, to wit:
“What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything”.5 This love for God, that can approach everything in life with passion, is possible thanks to the Spirit, for “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5).Pope Francis, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christus Vivit, 132
- 1 Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter, Fratelli Tutti, 69
- 2 Ibid, 64
- 3 Ibid, 67
- 4 Interview of Pope Francis, Carmen Magallon, Il Mio Papa
- 5 Pedro Arrupe SJ, Enamórate.