In Albert Camus’ iconic 1947 novel The Plague reads like a foreshadowing of our own tragic two years of the COVID pandemic.
The physician at the center of the book, Bernard Rieux, battles the devastating epidemic day after day for almost a year. The escalating number of sick and dying seems hopeless; the exhausted doctor’s work is physically and emotionally draining. At one point in the novel, Doctor Rieux tells a friend, “I have to tell you this: The whole thing is not about heroism. It’s about decency. It may seem like a ridiculous idea, but the only way to fight the plague is with decency.”
Asked by his friend what decency is, Rieux responds: “In general, I can’t say, but in my case, I know that it consists in doing my job… I don’t think I have any taste for heroism or sainthood. What interests me is to be a man.”
Decency is to be able to recognize that the humanity we all share is the very image of God. We live that image of God by the respect and good we extend to all.
It’s the measure by which Jesus calls us to live our lives, to share what we have with those in need and to offer a helping hand to those who are failing and to do this because we realize that we are all human beings.
Let our prayer be this day that with our Lord’s help and guidance, our compassion and forgiveness may be the measure that defines our life. May the Lord give us the grace and courage to embrace human decency, to forgive others, as we are forgiven; to give to others as the Lord gives to us, totally and completely without conditions or qualifications. Without counting the cost.
Let the challenge of this pandemic called COVID remind us that for the Christian, life, decency, is not about just me, it’s about we.