There is a new refrain coming through the media which I find heartening. ‘No one is safe from Covid 19 until everyone is.’

Source: A big stretch – The Zimbabwean

If the virus lingers on in any part of the world, every part of the world is vulnerable. So the developed countries now know, from science and common sense, that it is not enough to vaccinate their own citizens. Every person on the planet has to be free of the virus, otherwise all are still at risk. So the effort has begun: to get the vaccine to all.

We used to say – Mandela used to say it most insistently – ‘no one is free until everyone is free’. We could nod our heads at that and still ignore it. The authors of apartheid, deep down in their hearts, must have known this. But we can delete the voice of conscience even if it lingers in the Recycle bin. The Shoah, the Holocaust, happened in my life time, a time when people were supposed to be ‘enlightened’ and no longer subject to primitive notions of threats to survival.

But we can’t ignore this. Unlike Ebola or HIV, it cannot be contained in one part of the world or by simple precautions. This virus is everywhere and requires unprecedented precautions to resist it. Every aspect of social intercourse is shadowed and masked. Politics, sport, concerts, theatre, church and bars – all are battened down as happens when a ship hits a storm.

It is almost a year now since it all began and we can recall the excitement of cleaner air, working from home, time to reflect, concern for others – all the experiences which seemed to be a gift at the time. The gloss of those days has worn thin as people have grown tired of the restrictions. But it will be of great interest to see what permanent changes we will make to our ways when the virus is finally defeated.

The one thing we carry away, for sure, is that we are all changed – or, at least, have been invited to be. The virus has stretched our humanity, hopefully, for the better. This Lent Sunday we read the astonishing story of Abraham sacrificing his son. Whatever we make of it, it remains a parable about the sacrifice of Calvary which was the biggest ‘stretch’ humanity has ever made. It is the foundational act of going out of ourselves for others. Nothing like it had ever happened before and will never happen again. It is the true pole of the earth. As the Carthusians say, ‘Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis’. The cross stands (firm and immovable) while the world goes round (and round).

28 February 2021        Lent Sunday 2B          Gen 22:1…18      Rom 8:31-34          Mk 9:2-10

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