As difficult as these last months have been, it’s hard to deny that it has been a time of growth and learning. I guess it has been a time of growth because it’s been difficult. And it’s no surprise that most of the lessons have to do with God’s providence and hope.
we began looking at some faith lessons that I have been learning during this time. I hope that these months have also been a time of learning for you and that you are able to share some of those lessons with us. Write to me
and we will publish some of them here in the coming weeks.
I also hope that you agree that we can start calling this season the COVID Spring precisely because it has been a time of new growth and learning.
Between 2011 and 2014, all we heard in the news was about the Arab Spring
. One by one, slowly, various authoritarian governments in North Africa and the Middle East began to fall, as a result of popular uprisings. Fueled by the power of social media, we saw rulers forced out in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen. We also saw massive protests in many other countries. And so, the “spring” parallel is not just one of new life and rebirth: It also has to do with the fact that there is "movement" and that, despite the (very good) reasons to be afraid, fear is not going to have the final say.
Punishment from God
Very early on, around the middle of Lent, as we began to get a grip on the coronavirus situation, there were many who were saying that this was God’s punishment, that God had had enough of humanity's relentless abuse of his creation. It was easy to see that: All of a sudden we were forced to drive less, thus reducing pollution; we were forced to stop working so much (or completely), thus allowing families to spend more time together; we were not able to shop as much (or at all), thus reducing consumerism, and we had less money. We were forced to make more with less, to listen more and to pay attention to each other more.
We were even forced to give up things that are good for us, like going to church.
Even Hulk Hogan
joined in the conversation. He posted:
"In three short months, just like He did with the plagues of Egypt, God has taken away everything we worship. God said, 'you want to worship athletes, I will shut down the stadiums. You want to worship musicians, I will shut down Civic Centers. You want to worship actors, I will shut down theaters. You want to worship money, I will shut down the economy and collapse the stock market. You don't want to go to church and worship Me, I will make it where you can't go to church. If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.'
"Maybe we don't need a vaccine, Maybe we need to take this time of isolation from the distractions of the world and have a personal revival where we focus on the ONLY thing in the world that really matters. Jesus."
It’s hard to disagree with Hulk Hogan. And while his is a positive message and one that forces us to think about our priorities and values, it is important to recognize that God does not send us plagues, like He did with the plagues of Egypt.
Making All Things New
God is not a punishing God. God is a God of justice, yes, but also a God of mercy. That's what last Friday's feast of the Sacred Heart is all about. God is Perfect Justice and God is Perfect Mercy (read more about that here
) We don’t believe that God sends disease upon those who ignore him or who live sinful lives.
God could do that, but He doesn’t.
The Psalmist reminds us that:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103: 8-10)
God is not a punishing God. What is true, however is that our actions have consequences and those consequences can seem like punishment. God allows those consequences,as the natural course of events.
What's more important, and this is a lesson from the COVID Spring, God can take any situation, no matter how horrible, and make it new. God is not just the God of creation, but also the God of re-creation. This was not hard to see in the first weeks of the virus. Instead of making the situation worse, people began helping each other, keeping an eye out for each other; they began giving of their time and talent. This always happens during a crisis: it brings people together. That is God’s ability to make all things new put into practice. The fact that today we can look at lessons from the COVID Spring, means that good can always come out of difficult situations.
But, for some reason, God will not likely make all things new unless you hand it over to Him. This is why Jesus tells his disciples, when He appears to them on that first Easter Sunday, to see and touch his wounds (see John 20:19-28). If you are only looking for Christ in the good things in life, you may not find Him. If you are only looking for the resurrected Christ, you may not find Him. If you want to find Christ, look for His wounds and in His scars. Look for Him in His suffering and in the misery of the Cross because it is your misery, your suffering, and your wounds. There you will find Him.
Give Him your wounds, and He will transform them just as He transforms the bread and the wine.
The COVID Spring is a time of pruning (see John 15:1-8) when God is making many things new. This is how we bear good fruit. I am confident that we will see this in future years as we see the fruits of this season: The number of conversions and religious and priestly vocations that were sown during this time. We will also know a few generations from now all about the COVID saints when they are recognized – and we will see in December how many COVID babies are born.
Suffering is not easy, but it is guaranteed. Remember to suffer in love and for love and that “all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose”
Come back next week
for a few more faith lessons about Lent, the desert, listening, trust, and worship, that we are learning during this COVID Spring. And don’t forget to write to me
and tell me what lessons you have been learning during this time.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: firstname.lastname@example.org