In today's 1st reading (Acts 2:36-41), Peter concluded his famous "Pentecost Sermon," in response to which the people asked, What are we to do? As a grad student way back in the 1970s, I wrote a paper for a group project I was part of on the Global Resource Crisis. The title which the Director assigned it was that very response from Acts - "What Shall We do?"
Of course, in a sense that is always the question - in response to any situation that calls for action in response.
The question stares us in the face right now as we try to figure out what comes next in the aftermath of the massive disruption we are presently experiencing. One thing we know - or at least ought to know - is that we cannot expect the world to return to business as usual.
Last week, seeking to situate the present pandemic in the larger context of our ongoing and growing global climate catastrophe, Pope Francis said, “There is an expression in Spanish: ‘God always forgives, we forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives'.” (Even Bill Maher quoted the Pope's statement during his TV show last Friday.)
“This is the time to take the decisive step, to move from using and misusing nature to contemplating it,” the Pope said. “This crisis is affecting us all, rich and poor alike, and putting a spotlight on hypocrisy,” he noted.
So what are we to do? If nothing else, the present pandemic has demonstrated in a very extreme way our lack of control over the world, which the global climate catastrophe has already demonstrated, but which some of our supposed leaders have failed to respond to. It has also demonstrated the economic and social inequalities which have radically corrupted our society. All these problems cry out for a response, for which there can be no reversion to business as usual, no 1920-style "return to normalcy."