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OP-ED: Forging common bonds is essential now — and after this coronavirus crisis

Blase Cupich
Chicago Tribune (TNS)

In a scene from the Gospel of John, Jesus meets a man blind from birth. His blindness has left him fearful about taking a step forward. But Jesus uses this moment not only to bring physical healing to this one man, but also to point out the need for spiritual healing for us all. This moment has revealed our need for such healing, for the world’s people have been stunned and dispirited by this contagion. We seem to be living in an alternate reality, having entered an era unlike any living humanity has faced.

Jesus gives sight to the blind man by gently anointing his eyes with mud made from his saliva. Through this act of intimacy, Jesus tells us that healing comes through human tenderness and by assuring others that they are not alone or abandoned. While social distancing has separated us, this is a moment to keep each other close in our thoughts, but also to trust that God is ever near and will not let go of us. This is where the healing of our spirits must begin.

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Volunteer Roberta Daab of York Township prepares a walk-through area during a food distribution at the York County Food Bank Friday, March 20, 2020. The food bank modified its distribution program to minimize human contact during the Coronavirus pandemic. The majority of distribution was made via drive-thru service. Bill Kalina photo

By stooping down to make the healing mud, Jesus also draws us back to that moment in the Book of Genesis, when the Creator molds humanity from the clay of the earth, reminding us that renewal comes when we work together in solidarity, humbly recognizing our common humanity and shared vulnerability.

Forging anew our common bonds is important now and after this crisis passes. If we fail to call on the better angels of our nature now, this physical plague could become a societal one, spreading fear and panic, the likes of which we have not seen in this country except anecdotally. We have a choice about how each of us responds.

But healing will need to continue well into the future. One day, we hope soon, this crisis will end, but life cannot return to what was considered normal. The pandemic has brought us together to battle an enemy that threatens the existence of each of us. We should not squander the lessons about human solidarity our shared suffering will have taught us. This hard-won gift of unity should inspire us to open our eyes and join our spirits in addressing the other diseases that beset society: the epidemic of violence in our streets, the infection of vengeance and racism in our hearts, and the plague of poverty and inequity in our world. Failing to do so will only return us to living once again in indifference, blind to the needs of others, a condition that for too long has been accepted as normal.

So, let the healing begin even now, with the humility and confidence of being God’s creatures, both vulnerable and valuable in our common humanity. But, let it continue with a fresh resolve to open our eyes, so everyone can be healed of the social contagions that, if left unchecked, will surely again threaten us all.

— Cardinal Blase Cupich is the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago.