Covid-19, The Election 2020 and the Cost of Holiness
The most efficient way of looking forward might be to look back… In the last 2000 years, sometimes for centuries, the faithful would not be able to approach the Mass.
Some of the more mature members of our family might remember the Polio Epidemic in 1952 when pools were shut down, movie theatres emptied, and most were isolated from contact with others. Nearly 60,000 children were infected with the virus and more than 3,000 died. Many who survived were left paralyzed.
But a year later, a new vaccine was developed and the epidemic was contained. Even further back, the Spanish flu (1918), the Asian flu (1957), the Hong Kong flu (1967-68) and the swine flu (1976).
Take a look at the current situations in the world and in the US. We are following it closely, and I don’t know about you, but I feel it would be easy to sink into helplessness. There is a dangerous distrust of authority. Even more dangerous is that it is of fashion to air these views and even the persecution of those who do not show an obvious support of those who oppose authority. I’d like to invite you to consider a spiritual view of this uncertainty that we are feeling. Many of us feel anxious, unsure about the future and even now scared of contact with other people. The news is confusing, partially based on scientific guidelines from the Center for Disease Control,often brings more uncertainty than peace.
I would therefore like to address a few issues which may provide some foundation for our Christian hope. God is offering us this unique opportunity in 2020 to experience a more profound intimacy with Him and with those around us. He is still calling us to fulfill the great commandment to Love One Another.
This can be a most fruitful time for the salvation of souls, to bring lukewarm Catholics back to Church and to bring the relevance of the Eucharist to light for our Protestant brothers and sisters. What is God’s will? What is he trying to say to the world through permitting this Covid-19? What is God trying to help us see through this. Will we survive this suffering in our Nation? How are we to address the unrest, isolation and fear?
I would propose that we address it in the same exact way that the Saints approached calamities throughout History. Peace and confidence is a result of knowing we are Loved Infinitely by a God who undergoes the injustices of His Passion, and sanctifies his suffering to teach us the true meaning of love and out of desperation for your salvation.
My friend Fr. Mark says: For the first time in history, God has got the attention of everyone. Many are going to God, praying more. This is something beyond them that they can’t control. People are being forced to come together.T here’s a lot less sin in the world right now. In the midst of this pandemic, we have to be sowers of peace and joy. This is our opportunity to bring many souls to Christ. We have to realize that God has a plan.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who went through one of the greatest injustices of the last century came through it with an extraordinary fortitude against inhuman odds. Solzhenitsyn observed that the great heresy of modernity is to believe that progress, prosperity, health, and happiness are the ordinary, expected conditions of life,and that, therefore, frustration, boredom, sickness, pain, setbacks, and struggles are flaws, failures, and glitches that must be avoided and from which we must escape at all costs. But Jesus says, “He who loves his life will lose it; he who loses it for my sake preserves it to eternity.” How can we reconcile these views? In the Economy of Divine Mercy, this world cannot be properly understood outside of the context of Redemptive Suffering and love for the Cross.
In the Imitation of Christ (end of book 2) Kempis writes: If, indeed, there were anything better or more useful for man’s salvation than suffering, Christ would have shown it by word and example.Peace and Joy comes not from having a stable society, or the absence of suffering, but from the conviction that we are sons and daughters of a Father God who knows us through and through and loves us deeply.Our Lord clearly exhorts the disciples and all who wish to follow Him to carry the cross, saying in Luke 9:23: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” We know that God came to earth in order to give us the fullness of life. But to get there, we have to go through death denying the flesh, dying to the flesh which doesn’t just happen once, but through small mortifications every day.
Achieving sanctity means that self-denial becomes a habitual attitude.It’s praying with our senses, just as St. Paul claimed: “I make up in my body what is lacking in the sacrifice of the cross.” From a human point of view, there is no point at all to suffering.It is only from a supernatural or spiritual point of view that we find meaning.
A journalist interviewing Mother Theresa was interrupted by the Saint while asking the question: “The problem with the Church today…” Upon cutting her off, Mother Theresa immediately rebutted: “The problem with the Church today is you and me.” The problem is not COVID-19. The problem is not the political leaders, nor social movements. The big problem is Sin! Division is the devils strategy. We cannot forget that there is good in every protester and in every looter, in every policeman and in every politician. There is a legitimate desire for happiness Ultimately, whether they know it or not, they need Christ!.
An extraordinary spiritual classic is TheImitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis in which he writes these haunting words:
“VERY soon your life here will end; consider, then, what may be in store for you elsewhere. Today we live; tomorrow we die and are quickly forgotten.
The Passion of Christ, within the context of this Covid-19 pandemic, reminds us that each of us are given only one life, with varying unique talents, circumstances, lengths of years and input from those who have gone before us.
Kempis continues: Oh, the dullness and hardness of a heart which looks only to the present instead of preparing for that which is to come!…
God has a plan. Throughout the Scriptures, God has revealed his plan of holiness for you and mesmerized in the astonishing invitation in Matt. 5:48 to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This echoes the old testament in Leviticus 20 verse 7 which says: “Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy….”
During these difficult and scary times, how is your daily struggle going? Are you remembering to “Pursue peace with everyone, Hebrews. 12:14 and … holiness…”St. Paul writes: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (I Thes. 4:3). Now is the time to see everything from a Supernatural point of view. Even Covid-19.T o live out this extraordinary adventure toward holiness which we are called to develop as Sons and Daughters of God.Let me illustrate what I’m talking about by considering one saint in the middle of a persecution in which the Catholics were decimated in Spain.
Crocker writes in his book “Triumph, the power and the glory of the Catholic Church” about the revolution in Spain. “in the 1930s, the sky was lit with the fire of burning churches; the soil bleached with the bones of the slaughtered faithful. For decades, politics in Spain had been bitterly divided …In 1936, … Catholic priests and religious were murdered … Nuns were raped, monks were shot, and priests were tortured and humiliated unless they denied their vows. … Catholic persons and property were ransacked.”
The British historian Hugh Thomas wrote: “At no time in the history of Europe, or even perhaps of the world, had so passionate a hatred of religion and all its works been shown.” Many were exiled, and the rest took refuge in the Embassies and Consulates which had diplomatic immunity.
What does that have to do with us and Covid-19? Well, watch this…
At the Honduran Consulate in Madrid, Men, women and children were obliged to live together in the confinement of a few square meters. There were no beds, for months, they slept on the floor. They had to share one bathroom, two scarce meals a day. …this makes our situation actually look pretty good.
One priest, now a Saint, speaks of this time as a time of purification. Do you see yourself, our Country in a time of purification? You should, because listen to this: St. Josemaría Escrivá writes: …worldly people have a false notion of good and bad. Whatever satisfies the body, caters to self-love, pleases the flesh, is good; and whatever causes us annoyance, humiliation or pain, whatever restricts our selfishness, is bad. But those who consider these notions in a supernatural light see things differently….Let’s turn our eyes to the current situation in the world.…What should be our reaction? … …Right away, a voice cries out within us that the war [pandemic virus] is bad because many people are dying.But only those die who are allowed to by divine Providence.[In the case of war] Some are martyrs for God’s cause; they win eternal happiness by the sacrifice of their lives and gain immense fruit for everyone by the seed of their blood.Others have the misfortune to die without glory; but we ask you, Jesus, that you bestow all your mercy upon them….What harm can befall each of us from this [corona virus?] war? Death? But what is a life worth? How valuable are thirty, forty, ninety years of life in exchange for the love that we will enjoy forever’. But how bad is it for [churches to be closed, or even] Cathedrals to be to be destroyed? It’s very painful to see them demolished. But while recognizing the barbarity of this destruction, we should keep in mind that what is truly essential is … …the salvation of souls. …
Did you catch that? Even in the midst of the threat of death and in constant persecution, this Saint reminds us that our own situation calls for a requalification of our priorities. So, let us remember to give thanks, to make use of this time and to pray for the resolution of this Pandemic, but let us also do everything we can for the salvation of souls.
If we are going to become the Saints that God wants us to be, we could focus on the coming Kingdom of God and the salvation of the souls that God is counting on us to save. So let us make it our intention to come closer to the Virgin Mary and let us ask her to show us how to turn suffering into redemption for the salvation of souls.