“I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, Common English Bible).

The Lord speaks through Jeremiah to give hope to God’s people exiled in Babylon. God encourages them to live full lives, to “build houses and settle down; cultivate gardens… Get married and have children… Increase in number there, so that [they] don’t dwindle away” (Jeremiah 29:5-6). Then, when the time comes for Babylon to fall, the Lord will return God’s people to Jerusalem. Their struggles and displacement will not last forever.

We have been thrown into exile by the COVID crisis. We were caught off guard — it all happened so quickly. Now it has been over two months of living in this new normal, of living in uncertainty, fear, and frustration. Many have lost much during this time — money, freedom, health, and lives. However, we have also begun to grow accustomed to this new normal, and have found new ways to connect, worship, conduct business, and learn new hobbies. Despite the challenges of this time, there is much good as well.

Ironically, we have become so comfortable in this new normal, that many feel captive not just to the virus, but to Shelter-in-Place rules and government regulations. God’s people cry for freedom to resume life as it was. However, life will never be the same again.

Consider the plight of the Israelites in Babylon. Seventy years is a long time — a couple of generations born and raised, relationships developed across cultural and religious divisions, full and meaningful lives lived. God encouraged them to settle into their context and trust that all will be well in time. But, even for them, life will never be the same. They have adopted new perspectives and ways of life. In some ways, they have become new people, but they will always be God’s people.

Today, we will continue to find new ways to live life more joyfully, purposefully, and successfully. The restrictions on our lives will lift in time. However, in the meantime, listen to public health officials to protect yourselves and others; wear your masks when inside public spaces, wash your hands and avoid touching your faces.

Also, dear neighbors, resist the desire to go back to the way things were. This crisis is an opportunity for us to reform our communities to be more equitable and just for more people than before. God’s work is healing and reconciliation, and we are called to help in building the Beloved Community here and now. Much love and many blessings to you all.

Father Colin Maltbie is the Head Chaplain at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School.

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