By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronisingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future” —Nelson Mandela
Mandela’s words came to mind as I watched images of elderly persons looking in despair at rows of empty shelves in supermarkets in various parts of the UK. At the time of writing, I am in London and hope to return to T&T before British Airways ceases travelling that route from March 27, until travel restrictions are lifted, due to the impact of COVID-19.
These days a trip to the supermarket to purchase grocery here is really challenging. Many retailers have been opening early for an hour or two to allow the elderly/vulnerable and those most at risk of contracting COVID-19 to shop comfortably.
Many continue to fall victim to the effects of panic buying by those who have been stripping the shelves of essential products. Even though many retailers have placed purchasing limits on essential goods, some persons continue to ignore the pleas of staff and fill their trolleys with such goods, ignoring the needs of others.
The saddest video clip I saw, which was aired on national TV, showed Dawn Bilbrough, 51, a critical care nurse, who broke down in tears in her one-minute-long video in which she begged people to stop stockpiling.
At the end of her 48-hour shift, she had gone to the supermarket to purchase basic items of food but found the shelves had been stripped bare. Weeping she pleaded: “There’s people stripping the shelves of basic foods, you just need to stop it, it’s people like me who are going to be looking after you when you’re at your lowest, please.”
Selfishness and greed are anathema to the common good. As the journalist, Sally Killoran, stated: “Stockpiling essential supplies and ignoring quarantine advice can have deadly consequences for the most vulnerable among us…I am urging you to resist your fear-driven greedy impulses and please remain kind…it’s up to us as a nation to control how we personally respond. I ask that you do this with compassion.”
A note from ‘Incredible recipes’ on Facebook rightly reminds us all to “Make sure you stock up on compassion.” During these days of the global outbreak of COVID-19, let us remember that compassion is one of Jesus’ most important virtues.
Indeed, as Pope Francis has said: “To follow Jesus, we must embrace being compassionate” (Feb 2015). Today’s gospel, John 11:1–45, the raising of Lazarus, is a clear example of Jesus’ compassion. His compassion for Lazarus is rooted in love.
During this Lenten season, remember that Jesus is God’s compassionate gift to humanity. He sent His only Son to die on the Cross for our sins. Our scriptures are replete with examples of Jesus’ compassion. His life and His parables teach us how to be compassionate.
As His followers who seek to follow in His footsteps, we are called to build a culture of compassion in our communities, our country, and in the world. During this time when the world is plagued by this deadly virus, let us take action to protect everyone, including the homeless, the elderly, and essential workers.
Pope Francis emphasises the importance of prayer at this time. We should pray in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who have died and those affected by and inflicted with the virus.
In a recent interview, he recalled how the Apostles turned to Jesus to save them during the storm (Mk 4:35–41). He says: “Prayer helps us understand our vulnerability. It is the cry of those who are sinking, who feel they are in danger and alone. And in a difficult, desperate situation, it is important to know that the Lord is there to cling to.”
As Vatican News reported, “Pope Francis also addresses the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic for our future. The current crisis will help to remind us ‘once and for all, that humanity is a single community’…It will teach us that ‘universal kinship’ is important and critical. We should think about it like a ‘post-war’ phenomenon…’It will no longer be ‘them’. It will be ‘us’. Because we can only come out of this situation together’. Pope Francis concludes saying: … We will need ‘to build true kinship amongst us’.”
This is not a time to despair. Let our love and compassion for our neighbour lead us to act.
The path to Easter demands that we renew our faces and hearts as Christians through repentance, conversion and forgiveness, so as to live fully the abundant grace of the Paschal mystery… Let us stand beside our brothers and sisters in need, sharing our spiritual and material goods with them.
—Pope Francis message for Lent 2019
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee