This week, images from India must have startled us. Burning funeral pyres with corpses lining the ground tells of a an extremely desperate situation. New variants, mutated, are pushing numbers up across the world. Vaccine roll outs are slow. Vaccinated, and yet infected again. More than a year on, the virus isn’t letting up, maybe even taking on a more deadly form. But have all these startled us into a new calibration of our values and priorities of life?

The virus does not recognize borders. It does not differentiate nationalities. It cannot tell between races, or colour of skin. Neither can it tell if you are rich or poor, powerful, or part on an elite group. It does not judge according to the life we have so far lived, good or bad. The virus recognizes only humans, and as it recognizes all humanity as one and the same. It tells us that we are all in this desperate situation together.

The virus has given us a new sight, shining light on who we are today. It has brought our internal self onto the surface, illuminating the borders we have drawn. We are prejudiced, some nationalistic, some to the point of being xenophobic. We are also truly afraid, circling our self with the borders of self-concern, blinding us from seeing that we are all in this together. We act individually, not realizing that the ‘clothes and image’ we wear from this material world covers the common identity that makes us all equal. We are humans, and human.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty”. (Today’s Gospel)

Our world is this vineyard. We are interconnected with one another, stranger or friend, like it or not, no borders. What we won’t do for one another has implications. Like branches beyond, choked to wither and die. This virus is a great leveler; each person recognized with dignity as a human and of equal importance regardless of colour or status. Each with a simple responsibility to mask up, stay a distance and share what we have. We are called to put aside a small bit of ‘self’. Imagine true love flowing through the vineyard. It isn’t hard to do.

John Lennon was this dreamer. Imagine there are no borders, no countries to politicise the virus. Imagine there are no possessions, no riches to lose, no borders that give rise to greed or hunger. Imagine true love as a vaccine flowing freely from one to another, interconnected in this vineyard that forms our world. Imagine the peace which we inherit as fruits of our labour.

“We keep his commandments and live the kind of life that he wants. His commandments are these: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another” (Second Reading)

The alarm bells of our spiritual clock are now ringing. This virus must startle each of us to reset our values. We must ponder on what fruits we would want our life to produce, and how. We are clothed by images created in this world, the colours of self-rights and designs of self-importance. These make it difficult to imagine true love flowing from one to another, from the vine to its branches.

We must undress. Under these worldly images, we will find a common likeness in our one and shared humanity. Under these clothes, we share a common identity as children of the truth. We are all branches that are part of the vine. Remain in him and him is us.

“Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active; only by this can we be certain that we are children of the truth” (Second Reading)

5th Sunday of Easter