We are living in an unusual season commandeered by COVID-19, which has exposed the limitation of human progress and capacity. It also forced us to face this challenge together as a common threat to humanity across national boundaries, political stripes, race or culture.

Fessahaye Mebrahtu

I have heard the phrase, “we all are in this together.” It is also in such an unusual time that the character of a person or a nation is exposed. We are witnessing true heroes, who put their lives in danger to save others, especially, the medical professionals and first responders. The 72-year-old priest from Bergamo, Italy, gave his ventilator to someone younger than him. The priest died so that the other patient could live. What a heroic sacrifice, laying down oneself for others like Christ.

We are also noticing neighbors sharing what they have or their talents with others, “bringing our better angels” at each other’s service. Such demonstration of our common humanity gives us lots of hope going forward.

We cannot hide the fact also that some people cannot withstand such challenges and try to find someone else to blame for the situation. We hear that domestic violence has increased. Instead of taking advantage of the stay home directives as deepening our family values, appreciating each other as a gift, we fall victim to our worst instincts.

There have been several incidents of blaming Asians for the Corona virus. The sale of the Mexican beer, Corona, plummeted. Such racist conations speak to our “worst angel” that tears the fabric of our society at the seams, disregarding our common humanity. Thank God, these incidents are far in between. However, we cannot throw them under the rug because such inclinations are latent in our society, which are increasingly rearing their ugly heads.

COVID-19 has also exposed the vulnerability of our economic, healthcare and social welfare systems. In concert with Papal Encyclicals and Exhortations, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and local ordinaries have been ardent advocates to remedy these weak links of our nation.

I would like to highlight the following Pastoral Letters: Brothers and Sisters to Us – 1979; Health and Health Care, 1981; A Framework for Comprehensive Health Care Reform, 1993; Medicaid Expansion, 2013; Economic Justice for All, 1986; Welcoming the Stranger: Unity in Diversity 2000; and Open Wide Your Hearts, 2018, etc. Catholic Social Teachings are prophetic voices that should knock on the doors of hearts, from the common citizen to those in seats of economic and political powers. After COVID-19 has exposed our structural weakness, we need to heed to such prophetic voices otherwise, as in the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “we will perish like fools.” We are witnessing that as current reality, not a remote warning.

Our inattention to calls for economic and social justice; we are realizing the alarming rates of COVID-19 causalities among the poor and vulnerable, specifically among African Americans and other minorities. This is a dire warning to our values and priorities. We will revert to “business as usual” after we overcome this pandemic. I hope not. Though human beings by God’s grace have creative power, COVID-19 has reminded us the ultimate power remains with God and in God.

Fessahaye Mebrahtu is the director of Black Catholic and ethnic ministries for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.