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Opinion: Observing holy days in this pandemic time
Image created by Catherine Cordasco on Unsplash.

It seems that we humans always have a choice laid before us: will we listen to a deeper wisdom that calls us to think and act outside of our own self-interest, or will we yield to the gravity of self-centeredness, arrogance and pride?

For Christians, we see this call in Jesus’ words not only to lay down our lives for our friends but also to love our neighbors as ourselves — even to love our enemies. If only this were the particular expression of Christianity that we saw claimed in the public sphere, the world would be a much better place.

Indeed, Christianity does not have a monopoly on this call to compassion. The deep wisdom of Judaism calls us to remember the teachings of the prophets to care for the orphan, the widow, and the immigrants and strangers we meet. Islam, too, calls us to an embodiment of compassion for those in our community. Hinduism and Buddhism as well call us to a greater awareness of our interdependence with one another and all of creation.

I am intrigued that the wisdom of our faith traditions all speak to this call to look beyond our self-interest.

If ever there were a time to practice what we say we believe, this is it. We find ourselves in a situation where hollow words simply will not suffice. With the pandemic continuing to pressure us all, now is the time to recognize that we are called to care for one another.

I look to our health care providers in absolute awe for the way they are embodying the deep teachings of compassion in these days. They show us what it looks like to face the reality of a situation and respond with the most noble parts of ourselves. They are wisdom bearers, and they care for whomever stands in front of them.

As a parish priest, I hear the grief around not being able to celebrate holidays as we have before. As well, I hear the stubbornness that clings to a particular sentimentality that denies the reality of our situation. It helps me to remember that the roots of the word “holiday” lie with the observance of “holy days,” times of religious observance and spiritual worship. They were days that nurtured an awareness of the deeper, more significant things in life. Perhaps if we looked to these roots of our holy days, we might see our temporary sacrifice of family customs as a form of worship of God and devotion to one another’s well being.

Let us all renew our commitment to the common good, and let us once again resist the urge to encourage a blindness and willful ignorance that hurts us all.

Stuart Higginbotham

Flowery Branch

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