Finance Minister Mark Brown finished his address on Cook Islands Television on Sunday night, reminding the nation of a talk he had given to the nation back in March this year.
Quoting Scripture, the Minister used the text from Matthew 19:26: “Let us do what is possible; and let God do what is impossible.”
For me, this text captures well what is happening in the country and the world with our dealing with the pandemic, Covid-19. Yes, humankind has to do their part to overcome the pandemic. And those elements of the pandemic that are beyond our control, we leave to God.
For me this message has become clearer over what has happened in the last two weeks.
There was a growing confidence in the business community that New Zealand had the virus under control and that we were on the verge of seeing the border reopened. The expected outcome was that with the return of the tourists, some sort of normalcy could be re-established with the economy.
The latest outbreak of Covid-19 in the community in Auckland and Tokoroa has prevented, for the moment, the possibility of the border being reopened.
This delay is going to impact the lives of all of us in one way or another. The words “we are all in this together” cannot be denied.
As a religious leader I am concerned for the wellbeing of the general public who will be put under pressure because of this delay, whether short or long.
I acknowledge the response of the government to meet the needs of the community at this time: The extension of the wage subsidy initiative; the sole trader business grant and other initiatives provide the possibility of providing for some income for workers and thus relieving some of the hardship.
I have been aware of some members of the public in dire need and have heard when these people have approached Ministry of Internal Affairs, they have had the opportunity to state their case and have received helpful responses.
In a previous Church Talk article I wrote that I was concerned about some people falling through the cracks. I will acknowledge my present situation is that I have much more confidence that people should not be falling through the cracks with the systems put in place.
In the community one frequently hears of people being sensitive to those who are in need. I have heard of people being freed of paying rent or simply left to contribute what they can afford. People are sharing food. And there will be many other ways that we are looking out for one another that I am not aware of. Praise be to God.
One cannot but be impressed with the numbers of people now planting their own food. One of my priests was told on Aitutaki by a parishioner, “Father if anyone is hungry on Aitutaki, they are lazy. We can all plant and fish.”
The amount of fresh vegetables available and for a reasonable price is impressive. How I hope the initiatives to get agriculture more productive becomes a long term reality.
On Sunday afternoon, I found myself viewing a preacher on the television who was talking of prayer. The preacher was outlining how to pray, the importance of having a regular time for prayer and not just leaving it to chance.
Then the preacher addressed the difficulty of God not answering our prayers in the way that we had asked; that many pray-ers found their request met with silence by God.
The preacher made the following point, which was a good reminder to myself: The primary goal of prayer is forming a relationship with God. It is the relationship that is important. Asking is not the primary goal of prayer.
Those of us who make petitioning to be the primary goal, stop praying when something is not granted us. The consequence is we break the relationship with God and cut God out of our lives.
In our relationship with God, what is my expectation when we put our faith in the words that “Nothing is impossible for God” in the context of Covid-19?
As one unnamed writer on the internet put it: “One of the greatest challenges Jesus continually gave his followers was to have faith. He knew that having faith held the power to make amazing things happen. Peter had a little faith and walked on water (Matthew 14:29). A bleeding woman had a little faith and was healed after 12 years of no hope (Matt 9:20-22). A little bit of faith enabled the blind to see (Mark 10:46-52) and brought the dead back to life (Hebrews 11:35).”
If we put our faith in God, are we open to the possibility that the world may be very different from what we knew before Covid-19? That what we took for granted may no longer be sustainable and we have to settle for less? The possibility of less tourism; less overseas travel?
Just last week we were reading in our newspaper that Air New Zealand was retiring its workhorses, the 777s. Other airlines have retired their 747s and the A380s. Major decisions are being made about our future and we are failing to take the consequences on board.
The major point I would like to make in this Church Talk article today is that we can do much more regarding this pandemic.
It is human beings who have in some way brought about the pandemic. Human beings have made the mess.
Let us not blame God for the chaos in the world. God created something beautiful and entrusted it to our stewardship.
Now we have the opportunity to do something about it. We are called to be creative. We have to find the courage to get ourselves out of trouble as it is our doing and not God’s doing. Pope Francis in a recent document called Laudato Si (no. 2) put it this way:
“Indeed the earth, which is our common home, cries out to us in pain because we have hurt her by how we have used and abused her. We have grown to believe that we are the lords and masters of everything and can plunder the earth however we wish! The violence we render is now evident in the sickness of the water, the soil and the air. The earth is being laid waste. In our sinfulness, we have forgotten that we are made from the dust of this very earth ourselves.”
This is not the time to go our individual merry way and ignore the problem, as though it will go away on its own.
At different times we have heard more than one international spokesperson make the statement that the world will not be the same as a result of COVID-19. Presumably this is true and so my urgent appeal is for leaders to face the difficult questions of our time which are often unpopular.
Don’t pass them onto God. Let us tackle this together in solidarity to care for God’s creation as God intended.
By putting people first, ahead of profit, we will progress.