by Rev. Jose Granados
These days of Lent we reread Israel’s departure from Egypt, when God delivered them from the scourge of plagues. The scene comes to life with the epidemic we are experiencing. And it reminds us that God is no stranger to anything that happens to us. “My times are in your hands” (Ps 31:15). Whoever lives everything from faith in the Creator, also lives the coronavirus from faith in the Creator.
Why the coronavirus, what are its causes and effects? The biologist or doctor can tell us about it, also the psychologist or the economist. But only faith gives the ultimate horizon that unifies partial views. The believer does not have all the answers, but knows who does. He knows Him and knows how to invoke Him, to help him live this hour with meaning. Believing in God means that our “why?” can become “what for?”
“In the program of the kingdom of God”, Saint John Paul II said, “suffering is present in the world to provoke love, to give birth to works of love for our neighbor” (Salvifici Doloris 30). The suffering of the virus is also present so that love is revived in us. Towards this love providence leads all things. So, whoever believes in providence does not respond with sloppiness or irresponsibility, but with the intelligence of love.
We wake up to love first because we discover how valuable our body-based relationships are. And it is that this virus is a threat to our common life. Because of it we are afraid to be together, to work together, we isolate ourselves … Thus, the virus hurts us in the heart of the human, which is the call to communion. But by contrast we learn at the same time the great good that is threatened. For we experience that we have no life if it is not life together. That we cannot flourish as solitary individuals, but only as members of a family, school, neighborhood … The virus unmasks the lie of individualism and testifies to the beauty of the common good.
And so, we awaken to love, secondly, because we suffer as our own the suffering and anguish of others. Pain unites us. In a way, we have all been infected with the virus because our community, city, nation has been infected. Hard times are coming for many families, for the elderly, for the most fragile. And pain will increase among us the works of love for our neighbor. The difficulty of physical contact will require an intelligent love that invents new forms of presence. Technological means will help us express that closeness and emotional support that, far from spreading the virus, vaccinate us against it.
Waking up to love will also be, thirdly, waking up to new ways of working together. Because the pain of the virus, in addition to causing the disease, will be the pain of anxiety, of not knowing what to expect or how to get the thousand things out of everyday life, it will be the fatigue of redoing plans and enduring the wait. And the intelligent and creative love will be that of the teachers who do not interrupt their educational work or their support for the students, that of the parents who invent chores and games for their children, that of the shepherds who continue to bring food to their faithful, the one of families who inspire and share their creativity with other families.
In short, this creativity of love will make us discover that love has an inexhaustible source. And so, pain will awaken us to love, fourthly, if we turn our gaze to God, spring and channel of all love. The forced isolation of the virus can help delve into the big question about the “what for” of everything. The virus, threatening the breath of life that we breathe and the presence of those we love, invites us to ask ourselves about the ultimate secret of this breath of life and love. What is its origin and destiny? And the question will lead us to discover the face of that God who has wanted to respond to suffering, not with a theory, but with a presence: suffering with us. For He has become flesh, taking on our pain to heal it. And, in the sacraments of his body and blood, he has given us health.
Precisely at this time, access to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, can be difficult. Let us remember, therefore, that the grace of God continues to act, even when we cannot go to Communion. For in every mass that a priest says, even if he is alone, we will all be present, and his grace will touch us. And faith in providence will arouse an intelligent love so that the Eucharist continues to be present in our lives. We will be able to reinforce the common prayer, the reading aloud of the word of God, the family prayer of Lauds or Vespers on Sunday, the invocation of Mary on the rosary …
It is possible that, as is already happening in our city, many must live this Lent from the fast of the Eucharist. It will be a saving pain if it awakens in us the love for the living bread that comes from heaven. If it teaches us that, deprived of the Eucharist, medicine of immortality, we cannot live. For in it is the resurrected body of Christ, already immune to any virus, and inexhaustible source of our life together. Thus, the threat of the virus will awaken in us, together with the concrete love for those who suffer, the hope of a full love that never ends. For the psalmist’s plea will sound new: “You shall not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day because you have the Lord for your refuge and have made the Most High your stronghold” (Ps 91.5-6.9).
Nothing escapes the providence of God, and God relies on our prudence (which is the intelligence of love) to face the epidemic, supporting each other generously and creatively.