The coronavirus in the United States is highlighting the huge differences between the poor and lower middle classes and the rest of our country. It is focusing our attention on the elderly in senior living centers where the virus can affect all the patients and the staffs. It is helping us see how many more black Americans are dying than Latinos and whites because of their lack of access to health care and even hospitals. It is pointing out the inequities in our country, in our health care system and even in our education as poorer students cannot access the internet and the computers of tablets that would enable them to follow the online classes. Is this how we want to treat the poorer people in our land?
Jesus, at the beginning of His ministry, read from the scroll in the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Jesus is highlighting the 2,000+ verses in the Bible commanding us to take care of the poor, the needy, and the foreigner, to deal with justice and mercy. It is a major theme of the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments. It is a major part of what we are called to do as His followers on this earth, because it was His mission on this earth; now it is ours.
Isaiah 58 goes even further:
Is not this the fast I choose,
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
When you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Jesus and Isaiah get the enormity of the task we are asked to participate in. It is meant to be a big part of our purpose in serving God, in loving our neighbor. Isaiah’s use of the word “fast” means that we are giving up some of what we have to help others to not just survive, but also to thrive.
Both Jesus and Isaiah are talking about the physical needs—food, housing and more, but I believe both imply something beyond the physical into the realms of the emotional and spiritual needs of the other person. For that we have to go beyond just handing out food or donating to homeless shelters and other charities to actually meeting with and getting to know those in need so that, yes, their physical needs are met, but also so that they are seen as valuable human beings who are caught in a cycle of poverty or bad choices. People don’t just do things for no reason; there is some hurt or trauma behind every choice that isn’t helpful. There are circumstances in life that are difficult to overcome alone. There is a person made in the image of God who is crying out for us to see him or her, not to judge, but to acknowledge them as a child of God. And then we are talking about a person’s spiritual needs, too. Usually a person doesn’t need preaching, but someone who will acknowledge their value, who will walk with them for a while, who will love them.
Jesus is very clear in Matthew 25 when He talks of the sheep and the goats. The sheep are the ones who saw Jesus in the people they met and welcomed them, who took care of their physical needs, who visited them when sick or in prison, who spent time with them. The goats did nothing to care for those who were needy.
More than anything else the kingdom of God that Jesus promoted throughout His ministry is one of the communion that we all share with God, that we are to be connected to others, that we already share being made in His image, that we are to live and move and breathe in His Spirit in the community of mankind embracing us all. It is what being a disciple of Jesus means. And isn’t that another lesson of the Coronavirus: that we are all –the whole world—in this together?
Maybe the biggest lesson of the Coronavirus is this: that we are to awaken from our more selfish ways and truly care about our neighbors and fellow countrymen and women. And then won’t we be true followers of Jesus?
Questions to ponder over the week: What am I learning from the Coronavirus and the isolation period we’ve been in? How do I want my life to change as the isolation is lifted? Is God asking something more of me than I’ve known up to now?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are open to new ways of doing things, to always responding to God’s call to us, to allowing God to change our minds and hearts about what is important to us.
If you’d like to receive my blog five days a week in your email, go to patsaidadams.com/by-the-waters-blog/. There is a gift waiting for you.
Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts 2x a month. 5.11.20s is entitled, “God in my mind.”
I do want to apologize to those who are seeking to befriend me, I just don’t have time to answer your comments. I am so sorry.
 Luke 4:18-19 echoes Isaiah 61:1