by Ken Rolheiser
Covid-19, Hobbs and Jesus’ triumph over death

Canadian spiritual writer Marcia Lee Laycock metaphorically seeks a smooth stone that fits perfectly into the palm of her hand to represent her search for peace and contentment in this world. Eventually she hopes to find it when she fits perfectly into the palm of God’s hand.

Today we search for meaning in covid confusion. Too many of us live in a Thomas Hobbs world where we pursue self-interest goals, avoid risks at all costs and bow to our greatest fear, death.

In an eassay “The Stunning Triumph of Thomas Hobbes in the COVID Crisis” John Horvatt II says that people used to have higher goals in life like great deeds, artistic expression and personal sanctity. Pursuit of these brought us honor, glory and salvation. Today many live their lives as if the purpose of life is to seek pleasure, comfort and safety.

In the seventeenth century book Leviathon, Thomas Hobbs expounded on a social contract theory that only a powerful government, Leviathon, could protect people from their own selfishness. This selfishness could lead to a war of “all against all”. With a growing unease we view the present-day pandemic-stricken world’s emergence of powerful leaders and the surrender of so many basic freedoms and privileges. 

What justifies our surrender of so many freedoms? Is it our fear of death? Horvatt points out how many counties (communities) have never had one single case of the covid virus and yet have closed schools and churches and given up many normal freedoms of life. 

The church has always taught us to prepare for death by faithful and virtuous living. The self-less acts of the saints are to be imitated. Contrast this with the
selfish but natural inclination to satisfy our passions, self-interest and self-preservation, while avoiding at all costs our greatest fear, the natural evil of death.

How unchristian this all sounds and is. It should not be a world of all persons for themselves and against all others. And what of the triumph of Jesus over death and its power? Have we forgotten Christ’s resurrection victory over sin and death?

How do we find our way back to the palm of God’s hand? We can aspire to live with the assurance of a Marcia Lee Laycock who says she does not want to die before she accomplishes God’s plans for her. She recalls 2 Timothy 1:11-12: “And of this gospel I was appointed a herald … I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day”. 

This verse, says Laycock, reminds her for whom she works. She does not fear an untimely death, nor death as the end of it all. Laycock has lived her life trying to become that perfect smooth stone that fits into the palm of God’s hand. Like her, we need to seek that closeness with God:
My soul yearns, even faints,
  for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
  for the living God.
 Even the sparrow has found a home,
  and the swallow a nest for herself,
  where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
  LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
  they are ever praising you. (Psalm 84:2-4)

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