This is updated for 2020.
I know that I will address this some tomorrow but in anticipation, and now in light of current events in the 2020 pandemic, I thought it might be something to think about more often.
We live in a wonderful time of connectivity. Especially during the pandemic we have the ability to connect with friends and loved ones in a marvelous way; we can conduct business, finances, even work in the comfort of our own homes; we can even celebrate Mass together - something that would not have been true five to ten years ago. The pervasiveness of technology and its use are nothing new but at this time in history we receive an unprecedented amount of capability to be present to one another in this day and age.
But it can be hard for social creature that we are. We are actually disconnected as well. Hype and lies spread (as they always have) but our lack of connection makes it difficult to separate truth from falsehood. We are anxious and scared because we cannot always see the faces of those who tell us things anonymously over the internet and hear and see the context for things that are said. We are told to and do look for experts but often it is hard to distinguish who they are from the slick presentation that can deceive.
How like sin and temptation it is. To paraphrase Maxwell Smart: "If only he had used his genius for goodness instead of evil."
To paraphrase another response: "We have an answer for that." We know how to be alone and yet completely connected - we are the Church, the Body of Christ and the people of God. Throughout time so many saints are molded from the community of hermits. Though physically separated, they were completely connected with God and with those that they taught, healed, and comforted. When I read some of their stories I am amazed at the patience and compassion they had and the devotion to prayer and self-denial they practiced.
We are given that same chance but if we use our "connectivity" as a way to keep us apart from others instead of truly bringing us together then we fail to be disciples. It is easy to deceive ourselves that all the time we spend on-line "connects" us when in reality we use it as a way of distancing ourselves, keeping us from reaching in and getting our hands dirty, of being smug, satisfied, and of living from our couch instead of serving justice and the needs of others. And now, if we let fear of what we are to eat, how we are to get money, even illness and death, then we have let the Devil succeed in his temptations. The pandemic is not from God (cf. John 9) but it can be used by both God and the Devil for their ends. For God, "it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him." (John 9:3b); for the devil, well the effects of that are obvious as well.
So now, as many of us "quarantine in place" and practice "social distancing", let us look to the hermits. Let us live in joy and not fear. Let us take in liturgies, bible studies, and prayers and give out light. Concentrate on our relationship with God and a loving relationship with others, knowing that frustration, anger, fear, greed, sloth, and any number of other temptations and sin lie all around us. Let us come together in Christ and be one people in him.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil."
-- Matthew 6:25-34