-19 an apocalyptic event?

Apocalyptic literature from the scriptures often gets miss interpreted. Apocalyptic does not mean the “end of the world”. This is a miss interpretation. But, what the world is going through with COVID-19 is an “apocalyptic” event or a revelation. This event is an unveiling or to pull back the veil. This style of text, Apocalyptic, uses exaggerated images and metaphors. Like stars falling from the sky or the moon turning to blood in the scriptures. This is like a Steven Spielberg movie like Close Encounters or ET where suddenly you are placed in an utterly different world. What was normal before does not apply any more. The Apocalyptic event is meant to shock you in what you take as normal. This causes you to redefine what you think is normal. The apocalyptic applies to the COVID-19 event like it does other events. Like the two world wars.

We cannot run from this. The COVID-19 event has caused us to lose control. There spoken about in the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Matthew 24 says “all this is only the beginning of the birth pangs”. We interpret this as a threat because this upsets our normalcy. In Luke 21 says “your endurance will win you your souls”. Mark 13 says “Stay Awake” four times. Stay awake. Stay Awake. Stay Awake. Stay Awake. This means “learn the lesson that this event has to teach you”. Thus, don’t take anything for granted what reality is to teach you. Apocalyptic events, like COVID-19 or two world wars, reframe reality.

We would have done history a great favour if we truly understood apocalyptic literature and apocalyptic way of speaking as found in scripture. “Apocalyptic” is not a threat or the end of the world. Rather, what does do and make you feel like when everything falls apart. An apocalyptic event is not a threat but an invitation to depth. What does it take to wake people up to what really matters?

What is the state of the planet or the environment or the state of human relations? Then the COVID-19 Pandemic happens. No softer label will fit. But, it is only for those who are ready to hear. Are you ready?

We are called to pull back from what we know. To pull back the veil of our reality and ask “What is real and what is not real?” or “What lasts and what does not last?”

The Pandemic has a “reciprocity” or the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit. In the Pandemic we need to protect the other. To not make others sick in terms of COVID-19 by taking steps to protect the other. Like wearing a mask. This is not just a lesson in self-preservation it is a lesson in other-centred preservation. To care for the other. This is a lesson we can learn from this experience of COVID-19.

The Apocalyptic event is meant to leave us in the birth pangs. There is a new normal.

What about God in this?

For Christians, God is reality with a loving face. This face is saying, “I am going to help you rearrange reality and help you not take for granted those you should care about”.

There are eternal patterns to learn during an Apocalyptic event. For example, that everything passes away eventually, or, that we are called to care for the other.

We try and push away reality. This is the problem. Reality can teach us good lessons. We need to lessen our resistance to tightly grabbing of things or truths.

Before we can get to the vaccination, globally, there are lessons to be learned as a world community.

By praying, being in silence, surrendering our will, are all avenues to a new reality.

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29 November 2022

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Richard Rohr ofm

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