Fr. Frank McDevitt is the pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Aurora, Ont.
St. Paul tells the Corinthians that we Christians believe in a crucified Christ.
Our faith reminds us that the meaning of the cross will be found where people suffer. The crucified Christ hovers over our world as a constant reminder that the Christian heart cannot be indifferent to the suffering of others.
As we watch the news, we recognize the crucified Christ in the Rohingya who are persecuted in Myanmar and in the Uyghurs who are persecuted in China. We recognize the crucified Christ in the girls and boys who are kidnapped from schools in Nigeria and taken off into the wilderness. In our own country, so much of our history with the Indigenous people is a story of crucifixion.
All of these examples remind us that the human family is capable of terrible indifference, and through indifference, of terrible destruction.
In this time of COVID we have come to a new and deeper awareness of the suffering of a specific group of people in our own society. The elders of our community who have in astounding numbers died in our nursing and residential care homes.
We are called to solidarity with those who suffer, those who are pushed to the sides and those in our world who are as disposable as the Romans considered this Jesus of Nazareth to be disposable.
But wherever the cross is found, we in our faith are also called to look beyond the cross in hope.
Our world is so in love with what is young and beautiful and independent. Youth is passing and beauty is a brittle reality and independence is often gained by letting go of the baggage of less productive people.
Our society loves winners. Winners, on a social level, means there must be losers too.
Humans are fragile beings who shatter so easily.
Hopefully one of the shifts that will be the fruit of this time of COVID is that we will develop a new understanding of the place of elders in our community and in our lives. I think it is a reasonable fear that COVID will die away and our concerns for the care of the elderly may die away along with it.
In the Gospel today we hear about righteous indignation. Jesus goes to the temple where the preoccupation seems to be on the status quo.
Jesus enters a temple where for generations money was changed so sacrificial offerings could be bought with money that was not unclean. It was the way things were. Jesus opted to draw a line in the sand and call those in the temple to reverence and new dignity.
We can look at the care of elders and say that facilities are better now than they were fifty years ago and you would be right. You might say there are very caring people working in care homes and you would be absolutely right about that, too. There are good people and things in many ways are better than they were at one time.
But there needs to be a greater effort on the part of everyone to turn the corner on the care of elders. This must be a discussion in every federal, provincial and municipal election. We need to make that conversation happen.
The simple reality is that as a society we do not place great value on our elders, so we do not place great value on those who work with our elders, too. Their pay rates and their working conditions prove that.
But we are Christians; we are not a faith of bare minimums.
We do not look at the Ten Commandments and say that is what we have to do to live a good and faithful life. The Ten Commandments are just a beginning. They never talk of love or compassion or justice. They never pull us forward. They just tell us how to not go backwards.
The response to the crisis in elder care is not an ever expanding policy of access to medical assistance to die. That is the definition of going backwards.
In this time of Lent, we travel forward to Calvary and beyond.
So let us take time to consider our shared legacy, the elders of our society; a group that all of those who are blessed with sufficient years will join.
This resolve takes us back to what may be seen as an obstacle or sheer madness, Christ crucified.
Christ who is one with the world’s suffering.
Christ who goes beyond the cross to the resurrection.
Let us use this Lent to strengthen ourselves for that journey with Christ to Calvary and beyond.
This reflection is based on the readings for the Third Sunday of Lent, Year B: Exodus 20.1-17; 1 Cor. 1.18, 22-25; and John 2.13-25.