“Why are you sitting there looking at your screens?” I imagine this is what the angel would say to us during this time of COVID-19. We cannot go out. We cannot interact in our usual ways. Out of solidarity, we shelter in place. Our gaze is full of the same longing and doubt that the disciples felt.
When the virus first started, our worker union faced an abrupt end to walk-throughs, when organizers would make an effort to visit each and every graduate worker across the university. This process is one of our main tools for organizing, as well as simply getting to know people. Simultaneously, budget cuts put many workers in precarious situations. This meant that more than ever, we needed to connect with fellow workers.
The team quickly transitioned to phone banking, making hundreds of phone calls to check in on workers and ensure they had all their needs met during this crisis. We are also working to empower workers’ voices in university decision-making.
Yet there are also lingering doubts. The disciples asked Jesus if this is the time when the kingdom of Israel will be restored. That is not quite the right question. Rather, Jesus makes it clear that we are to bear witness to the kingdom of God, that of faith, justice, goodness, and righteousness. It is the time for discipleship.
Pursuing discipleship during the time of COVID-19 is difficult, seemingly limited, and sometimes lonely. Christ, however, promised us companionship in each other and the Holy Spirit. Although we have our doubts just as the disciples did, Jesus both missions us and gives us the tools we need for that mission. While we may not see the Kingdom restored as immediately or exactly as we might hope, we are preparing. The time for organizing is now.
Bro.Ken Homan, S.J., is a Jesuit brother currently studying and writing at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. In addition to his work as a student, Bro.Ken works in union organizing and environmental justice. In his spare time, he is a woodworker and master of puns.