Quarantine of the heart

We have finally welcomed the repeal of quarantine and now there is a gradual easing of precautionary measures. After more than 70 days spent inside our complex, I walked the streets of Rome again. For this reason, I want to present in this article some of my reflections and observations on the current “postcoronal condition” that I encountered after my release. Also, following my last article, Freedom in Chains, I want to address the issue of internal freedom a little more.

At first glance, everything seems to be slowly returning to normal: shops and churches are reopening to the public, people are walking on the streets, we are no longer monitored by helicopters and drones (at least not the police one), even Internet portals have begun to write less and less about the famous coronavirus… The natural world seems to be waking up again from hibernation that has lasted longer than expected this year. And maybe, we are the ones who fell asleep. Perhaps the natural world has been awake all the time and lived in its variety of colors, while we were sleeping enclosed in the grayness of ours four walls. Now that we have emerged from our apparent shelters, it may seem to us that everything is as it was before, as if time stood still and nothing has changed.

As I watch people with masks on their faces I feel a kind of anxiety inside me. Something tells me that nothing is the same as before, nor will it ever be the same. Isolation has done its thing, and the effects of the quarantine are yet to be felt on our skin. I don’t want to spread negativity and blackness unnecessarily. It is not my goal to predict the future and say that cataclysms of unprecedented proportions await us or that we are facing times of drastic metamorphosis of the society as we know it. Yet, in  fact, we are social beings and we cannot live in isolation from other people. We are called to a relationship – to meet others. With this in mind, it is justified to speak of the fractures that occurred within us during our life in quarantine.

It is true that we have freed ourselves from the shackles of physical quarantine, but I am afraid that our hearts have been trapped – locked behind thick walls of fear. When I say the heart, I mean the most intimate and deepest in us, which reaches below the surface of our emotions, feelings, all the way to the center of our being. The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live, says the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2563). And where are we in this whole story interwoven with fear? The outer freedom breathes easier and easier with full lungs every day, while we have left the internal freedom on the respirator. We forgot her. Instead, we let fear go free and now it rules us. Do we really look at other people with the same view as in the time before quarantine, or do we now recognize in every passer-by a potential threat to our health? Has the lack of physical touch destroyed in us that spiritual reality which is filled with love? Is there at least an ember of love for others left in us, or has the former flame of love been completely extinguished?

This Sunday we will celebrate Pentecost. How are we going to let the Holy Spirit into our hearts if they remain locked in quarantine? Quarantine is not bad in itself, but if we stay closed for too long we have signed a death judgment for ourselves. Not even a seashell can stay closed forever, but must be opened from time to time to feed. Otherwise, it will starve and suffocate, and will never give the most precious thing it has – a pearl. Thus, our heart cannot remain eternally closed but must be opened so that it can receive love, and then, give love to others. Yes, we must protect our hearts from bad and destructive influences, that is true. But isn’t the best defense open to the influence of the Holy Spirit? Where the Spirit of God lives, light dwells, and there is no place for fear.

Pentecost is an opportunity for a meeting and a new life momentum. The apostles were in fear after Jesus’ death and spent most of their time enclosed in theirs four walls. With the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, they received new gifts, talents, and a new fire kindled in their hearts. Then, they could go out into the world and proclaim the Good News to everyone. Yes, the fear was gone and the perfect love has settled in their hearts. From their fragmentary scattering, they were reassembled into one – with the One. Do we want to do the same or will we still squat in the corner of our own room? Do we want to dare and boldly step out into the light, or will we be content to watch the shadows bouncing on the cold walls, just like the people of the Plato’s cave? It is only up to us to open our hearts, God will take care of everything else.

Image taken from: https://www.pickpik.com/

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