During this time of “sheltering-at-home” I have chosen to more closely shelter Jesus in the home of my heart. With my day’s schedule changed, my work transformed, and events cancelled, it has been difficult to know where to begin. However, these changes have welcomed in greater time for prayer and reflection on my ever-changing understanding of what it means to be a community health nurse.
Although my heart aches for those of my patients who experience the severity of this pandemic more than I can ever imagine, there is little benefit in becoming downcast and wallowing in helplessness. Somehow there must be hope for a lasting transformation that shapes the way for a better world. One example of hope that I am finding lies in the triumphs of the past, like how the health system I work for, St. Joseph Health, was started in response to the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. Having risen in a time of pressing need, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange started their health ministry to bring necessary care to the suffering around them. Their example has transformed healthcare and has impacted the way I can care for my patients today in light of COVID-19.
Because of this, I have the freedom of choosing to see our world’s current situation through a different lens: One that doesn’t negate the severity of the situation, but looks at the situation with eyes of hope. This has allowed me to start my new life at home with the foundations of the Gospel message in John, chapter 9 and the example of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange.
A Man Born Blind
In response to this pandemic, I have been invited to ponder chapter 9 of John’s Gospel where Jesus encounters the man blind since birth. This man had been well-known for his impairment in the town in which he lived. Blindness was his defining characteristic; the very first thing people witnessed when encountering him. Upon meeting this man, Jesus replied to his disciples saying neither this man nor his parents had sinned, but was blind so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
This has led me to think about the ways in which I have been born “blind” and how Jesus wants to transform this “blindness” into a manifestation of his redemptive works in the world. As a self-proclaimed busy-body and someone who loves to be outside meeting new people, this time of being at home has been a challenge in which I have faced much restlessness. This feeling was made even more poignant when I anticipated how I thought the coming months would unfold for me both personally and professionally. Even though these were rational thoughts, I had to allow for my world to stop and God’s world to be so that His works may be made visible through me. Upon doing so, I was blessed with a new role in the hospital which satisfied my hunger for being around people and staying busy. I am now educating hospital caregivers on the proper fit and use of the N95 mask used for COVID-19 patients. I am greeted each shift with eager learners and compassionate hearts, and even if I am never in direct contact with a patient, I am grateful for the opportunity to keep the Hospital’s caregivers healthy so they may fulfill their patients’ needs.
Washing in the Pool
After anointing the man’s eyes, Jesus says to him “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). And after visiting this pool of new life, he “came back able to see.”
During this time of quarantine, I have asked myself, “How is God calling me to wash away past habits and routines which have brought me further away from Him and others?” And more importantly, “How is God calling me to see life in a new way through His lens?” My mind is usually programmed to think about what’s next, instead of what beauty is taking place now. However, since I am required to be home more often, I now have more opportunities for creative uses of my time. In the past couple weeks, my community of volunteers and I have spent more time together doing what we love—cooking and eating! In doing so, we have created spaces for sharing both culinary techniques and stories behind our favorite ethnic foods. In this way, I see myself being more present to the blessings of food and the fellowship I share.
Blindness to Belief
After being healed, Jesus asks the once blind man if he “believes in the Son of Man” and he replies, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
In this passage, I see the transformation from complete physical blindness as well as spiritual blindness, to belief in the Lord. When my worldly comforts are taken away, I see more vividly where my blindness lies. Sheltering-at-home has created more spaces for silence where I don’t have to run away from my weaknesses. Instead, I am learning to bring them to the feet of Jesus who promises a warm embrace and transformative healing. Having gone on many walks around my neighborhood, I have found this phenomenon perfectly illustrated in God’s nature. He is the ever-fervent gardener who gives his trees and plants all they need. If He is willing to transform this blossom into a juicy orange, then what great care will he take of me? After all, my call is not to be the same little bud throughout time, but to grow into fruit of faith, inspiring hope for the world.
In this journey under quarantine mandates, the story of the blind man in John’s Gospel helps qualm my worries and restlessness. Just like he was blind to the goodness and hope that was about to unfold in his life, I am blind to the new life that can come even in times of suffering. I only have to walk outside my door to see the brilliance of God’s transformative power. Just like a new spring is welcomed in with shouts of bright orange, my desire is that we all are welcomed into the new life whose bud is hope.
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Annie Voegele is a volunteer with the St. Joseph Worker Program, Orange and a CVN Serving with Sisters Contributor. This blog series is sponsored by our VOCARE Initiative, thanks to the support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.