With an entire year of a pandemic having passed, just barely seeing a glimmer of hope in vaccines, humankind is faced with another cycle of wreckage on the horizon. With news of a more deadly strain of the virus, our patience and endurance stand the risk of being shattered yet again.
As countries brace themselves for impact, fast imposing or contemplating hard lockdowns, and scrambling to update research and development towards finding relief, we individuals need to take note of certain realisations and responsibilities.
While this may not exactly make for a festive read on Christmas Day, from my point of view, it might be the perfect time to think hard and attempt to absorb these deeply powerful spiritual teachings of Jesus.
“Take up your cross and follow me”
Jesus signifies unconditional kindness and service to others. To me, this sounds very much like taking responsibility for your actions, setting aside history, background, education et al, following the path of kindness, compassion, and helpfulness. Spelt out loud and clear from rooftops and parroted through phone lines, we have been asked to maintain distance, wear masks, and avoid crowds. “COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which spreads between people, mainly when an infected person is in close contact with another person,” as explained by WHO. But “not give in to temptation” or “repent—turn away from wrong” didn’t resound enough with revellers across the globe as the virus stealthily spread through exposure, claimed lives and now stands mutated.
As a psychologist, I agree and empathise with the pressure that comes with being denied the freedom to move around, our routine, regular lives being under medical dictums, and being isolated, distant or disconnected from fellow humans. It has been one of the roughest years marked by loss and despair, compounded by these and several more such issues. But intolerance and impatience are the biggest enemies of hardship. We need to recognise and make responsible choices in our decisions, keeping in mind not just ourselves, but compassion and service to others as well. We unite in pain, empathise in loss, but stand divided in responsibility. When it comes to that, there must always be another Jesus to carry the cross for us.
When one state rejects rules, one community celebrates in crowds, one family decides to travel, one celebrity throws a party, we emulate in borrowed confidence. The more fortunate sections of society have a bigger responsibility to set examples to those who look up to them and their social media and follow blindly. We don’t need socio-biological research to declare statistics of the contribution of this herd thinking, in the spread of this disease, it is evident and prevalent among reliable society whispers.
“The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
For many of us, the kingdom of heaven lies far and beyond, in travels, fame and followers, possessions, affluence, or approval. The list is remarkably dependent on external factors. I believe Jesus may have meant that it’s not far outside and in fact well within our reach. He is saying that heaven lies within us. “Is at hand” can also be indicative of it being in our sincere actions.
Heaven lies in our thoughts going beyond the limited belief systems that we picked up as we grew up and allowed those learnings to define us. Those rigid perceptions of ourselves and others, situations and circumstances, communities and religions make it difficult to recognise the strengths that lie in openness and acceptance.
Understandably so, everyone has added meaning to the crisis in 2020 depending on what they chase. The year taught us all that matters. I believe that many of us still have to acknowledge what doesn’t matter at all.
“Have faith; it is enough”
Many stories and parables of Jesus teach us to have faith in him. Faith is understood in unique ways. For many, faith lies in God, and for many, God resides in their faith. Faith reflects our trust, strong belief in something. Faith in our own goodness without pointing fingers at others, in acceptance of the all-important present and awakening to the deep compassion we are capable of, is the interpretation of “faith being enough” that resonates the most with me.
While we may have gone through a period that has shaken our faith and exacerbated self-doubt, re-establishing our faith in ourselves is key. Suffering and crisis may trigger doubt, pain and despair, but trusting the journey, the process and our experiences build faith. That we are capable of learning, healing, resurrecting, restoring ourselves and others, that we can add value to someone else’s life by being empathetic and accommodating, that we can choose to see good in people and in crisis, translates into faith and who knows, that truly may be enough!
One may critique this as being too optimistic but hope and oneness are at the core of spiritual awakening. Our current struggle to survive and stay healthy needs faith that we are capable of caring for ourselves and others, acting in each other’s benefit, sacrificing for the larger good, and having faith that whatever comes our way, we will overcome with awareness, courage, kindness and compassion.