Víctor Codina. If we were to search for a wore that might sum up all that we are living in these months of pandemic, something unforeseen that has shaken by their roots life, wellness, the economy, work, the institutions and customs of all humankind and has made us feel vulnerable, without our having either a definitive solution or a clear future, perhaps the most adequate word would be “chaos”.
The Dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language defines chaos in a way that is somewhat surprising: “The state of confusion in which everything was found at the moment of creation, before God placed them in the order that they had afterwards. Confusion; disorder.”
Clearly, this definition of chaos alludes to the beginning of the book of Genesis: “The earth was chaos and confusion (tohu waboho) and darkness over the abyss and a wind (in Hebrew, feminine, la ruah) from God fluttered over the waters.” (Genesis 1:2).
Ecclesiastical tradition has interpreted this wind from God as a reference to the Holy Spirit who with His breath fertilizes and gives life to all of creation. In this sense, the Spirit, creator and giver of life, is the polar opposite of chaos.
It is characteristic of this Biblical Spirit to become present precisely in moments of chaos, of grief and adversity, in the dark and tragic moments of our personal and social history, when from the abyss the cry of the afflicted rises to heaven.
It is the Spirit who in the Bible makes sterile women give birth to important Biblical characters such as Isaac, Jacob, Sampson, Samuel and John the Baptist. It is the Spirit who the prophet Ezekiel announces to the exiled Israelites will be poured out over a field of dry human bones in order for them to come to life (Ez 37:114). It is the same Spirit who overshadows Mary of Nazareth so that she can become the Mother of Jesus, the Spirit who descends on the carpenter of Nazareth who is waiting with the sinners to be baptized by John the Baptist, and the Spirit who guides the life of Jesus and when He dies on the cross, raises Him to life from the place of the dead.
This is the Spirit that Jesus promised that He would send to His disciples after His Passion and that the Risen Lord pours out with his breath on the Apostles who were locked away and full of fear. It is the Spirit who on Pentecost descends in the form of a violent wind on the small primitive community in Jerusalem and on all of humankind. In the well-known expression of St. Irenaeus, martyr bishop of Lyon (130-202), the Son and the Spirit are the two hands with which the Father creates us and guides us throughout history.
We Christians believe that this Spirit who acts especially in moments of confusion and in response to a crying out from the abyss, is the One who is also present in the current situation of world-wide chaos.
But it would be a mistake to think that everything is going to change miraculously simply by the presence of the Spirit. We cannot be ingenuous and fall into the easy slogan that tomorrow, after the pandemic, everything will be better. One thing is the final triumph of the Kingdom of God and another quite different is its being made real in the history of each day. Has humankind changed after Auschwitz, Hiroshima, the Gulag and Chernobyl? After the fires in Amazonia and Australia? Has it changed after the encyclical of Pope Francis “Laudato si”? Don’t we run the risk of wanting to return, after the pandemic, to the same thing as before, the same thing as always?
We have to help the Spirit who always acts through us. It is we who with the interior strength of the Spirit have to be converted and change our life style. We have to abandon our pride in believing that we are the lords and owners of all of creation. We must abandon machismo and racism. And we must abandon an economy that enriches a few rich people at the cost of marginalizing the great majority of humankind and which destroys nature, contaminates the atmosphere and the water, eliminates woods and forests, provokes droughts, hunger and the migration of whole populations.
The Spirit is pushing us today to build a different world, humbler, simpler, more unified, restrained and ecological, more tender and intimate. It would be a new world that takes care of our common homeland and feels itself connected to all of creation, with an economy based on solidarity and community, that eliminates the existing social differences and which privileges those at the bottom, which invests in education, health and vaccinations, not in arms, narcotrafficking and trafficking of persons, which doesn’t close borders and ports to immigrants, but instead shares work, respects different cultures and religions and opens itself to the transcendent and spiritual dimension of life. As Leonardo Boff says, “the new world, after the coronavirus or later, will be more spiritual or it will not be.”
However, this will not happen unless each and every one of us pays a price which is a change of direction and of our personal, familial, social, political, cultural and ecclesiastical style of life .Are we ready to do that or do we simply want to return to the way it was before?
Let us ask God to send anew the wind of the Spirit, the Ruah, to flutter over our chaos and renew the face of the Earth.