Compassion to Affirmation

Editor’s note: Monsignor Jerry Sherba, who is immuno-compromised, recently wrote how the pandemic has impacted him. In his friendly style, he jokes, “Welcome to my world,” because he has social distanced and avoided crowds for years while fighting cancer. NC Catholics shares an excerpt of his post, edited for space.

I understand the severity of the coronavirus ... the words of my oncologist still ring in my ears: “Jerry, your immune system is so compromised that if you get the virus, you die.” Period.

I don’t think any message can be any clearer than that – except “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so also should you love one another."

When you’re young and healthy and are facing the world with vim, vigor and a positive attitude – then all this “to do” about the coronavirus may seem “over the top.”

But, for those who can die from a cough or a virus lying dormant on a doorknob – it’s very real!

Yes, the coronavirus is a harsh reality ... and it’s taking tolls in many ways – emotional, mental, psychological, physical, spiritual. But we must remember we’ll help each other through!

It’s not the time to find loopholes or place blame. It’s time we had common sense for common good. I’ve learned a lot and have grown in my convictions in my time of “cancer-based isolation!” 

God is Emmanuel. I truly believe that God is part of my life and he wasn’t (isn’t) going to leave me now that I have cancer!

Prayer is important to me, to my life, to my ministry as a priest!

I have a responsibility to myself: to listen to my body! Lots of times it says things I don’t want to hear, but it DOES have the last word! I realize I just can’t do things I used to be able to do. Some, with less energy or strength; others, not at all! Cancer, chemo, age: these (in that order my oncologist is very quick to emphasize) define the parameters of what I can do, but they DO NOT define ME!

I have a responsibility to others. Yes, there are things I can’t do, places I can’t go and events I can’t attend, but that doesn’t mean I just throw up my arms and say, “This or that doesn’t concern me,” because this or that does concern me. We Christians are all part of the body of Christ. When one part hurts, we all hurt.

Today we experience that through the coronavirus! Maybe through the coronavirus we can all become a bit more sensitive, a bit more empathetic, a bit more compassionate, a bit more loving!

I hope the effects of this COVID-19 won’t just leave us angry or distraught or abandoned or cynical. Rather, may this struggle we’re all facing return humanity to a time of co-dependence upon one another, whereby we appreciate one another as well as the work they do!

I keep my sense of JOY: J(esus) ... O(thers)...Y(ourself)]! Joy is more than happiness; it’s more than gladness; it’s more than elation. It’s a primal sense that I’m not alone ... that whatever happens, I can deal with it.

All this can be summed up by striving to be people of CAPAS:

Compassion: sympathetic awareness of others’ distress with a desire to alleviate it
Affirmation: confirming the sense of worth of others
Patience: bearing pains/trials calmly, without complaint; one step/day at a time
Acceptance: to receive willingly; to give approval
Shalom: peace; a blessing, a manifestation of divine grace

Being people of compassion leads to affirmation which leads to patience which leads to acceptance which leads us to shalom: peace.

As we hear Jesus tell us in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you … Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”

As we strive to live through the coronavirus pandemic, it’s good for us to “eliminate the negative, accentuate the positive” and strive to be the best disciples God – and we – want us to be! We are CAPAS people and alleluia is our song! – with due respect to Saint Augustine!

Stay safe. Follow whatever regulations are in effect for your area. Remember – common sense for the common good.

We need to watch out for each other, striving to live in the joy of the Gospel by being people of CAPAS!

We’ll make it through. God is with us! What the new “normal” will be, no one knows. We need to keep ourselves safe, help those we’re able to help and live our lives for God.