A microorganism spreading across the earth faster than the 2019 wildfires of Australia has silenced the restless pace of megacities, hitting every inhabited continent in two months.
So far this strain of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) has killed 11,252, twice the number seven days ago. Regardless of the death rate for each country, for example, Canada at 12 vs. Italy at over 4,000 the numbers keep doubling anywhere between 2 to seven days.
Every media source vividly shows the incredible and exhausting effort to kill Covid-19. Some doctors and leaders use war language to describe the effort like Donald Trump’s “hidden enemy” and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “This enemy can be deadly”, and “we must act like a wartime government”. It’s not just government leader talk either. Infectious disease doctor Michele Barry at Stanford University joined the chorus: “This is a war.”
Everyone is involved in the fight. Yet there’s a feeling of helplessness captured by the omnipresent media that intentionally omits the most powerful weapon needed to defeat Covid-19, prayer.
The whole world is in the crucible of a great trial. Only through prayer will we draw close to Christ who is already involved and has the power to conquer the coronavirus in a similar way he silenced the wind and the sea.
However, conquering the coronavirus so we can return to our former way of life is not what God wants for us. He wants us. All of us. The more we pray the more our hearts will open, allowing Him to take possession of us, conquering first our fear, anxiety, and preoccupation with Covid-19.
Victory over our sins, rebellion, pride, and stubbornness is what He wants first. Then we will find new meaning and purpose amid the same buildings, streets, rivers and forests that surrounded our pre-coronavirus lives. We will say with the blind man in today’s Gospel, “One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” John 9:25
When we cry out to Him in utter helplessness, He will come and do “immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20-21). Scientists, nurses, doctors, political leaders will find impossible situations becoming manageable and even mysteriously solved. Relying on human strength and ingenuity alone is futile. However, through prayer, He will multiply the gifts He has given us.
Ottawa Archbishop Prendergast said in his March 20 letter to the faithful “…[I want to say]how proud I am about the response of our local Church to this crisis demonstrated both by your prayers and also by efforts to reach out to those who are vulnerable, especially those who live alone and our elderly sisters and brothers who are at an increased risk because of their frailty.
We are at the point of crying out to him. John Paul II used the Lord’s Resurrection appearance at Lake Tiberias in a 1987 homily to make it clear that we can do nothing without Christ:
Although they had already heard the message of Jesus’ resurrection from Mary Magdalene, although they had met him several times, they returned to their boats as if nothing had happened. It sounds like resignation: Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. John 21:3
The Pope said their experience of failure is often felt today and can lead to discouragement. This happens if we take our eyes off Jesus allowing prayer to slip away, relying on ourselves.
John Paul II: It appears that the Lord must take our goods, our means away from us so that our vision is cleared for him. For he seeks our company. As we read in the good news of today’s Gospel: “Just after daybreak Jesus was standing on the shore…” First He needed an honest answer from his disciples, an admission of their hopelessness and powerlessness. He said to them: “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” “Not a thing,” they answered.” Then came God’s help: “Cast your net to the starboard side,” he told them, “and you will find something.” So they made a cast, and took so many fish they could not haul the net in.” (Jn 21:3-6). Suddenly the risen Lord became a living reality in their lives, transforming them and giving them a new meaning to everything filling them with unexpected satisfaction and joy.
A microorganism is humbling us and the Lord seems to be allowing “our goods, our means to be taken away from us so that our vision is cleared for him”.
When this moment arrives in our heart He intervenes. We encounter the One who has been seeking us. Miracles happen. This virus launched its attack in Lent when 1.2 billion Catholics heard God calling us to Himself on Ash Wednesday.
Yet even now—says the Lord— return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God, For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment. (Joel 2:12-13)
The Lord is doing a marvellous work through this crisis. With the stunning stillness and silence everywhere we have a wonderful opportunity to pray, for many to enter into solitude directed toward God.
I wrote about the tragic absence of Mass here and how the Lord can inspire creative ways to be with him in the Holy Eucharist while working within the mandate to end public gatherings for now.
Here at Holy Canadian Martyrs Parish in Combermere, adoration has been moved to the Church instead of the small side chapel. This is a great gift to pray before our Lord when we can’t receive Him in the Eucharist. Many more can attend at various times while maintaining the necessary distance.
Great Catholic sources such as Word On Fire and EWTN draw us into the radius of Jesus’ embrace. He lives in His Church, the hope and light shining continually in every era which inevitably has some menacing evil circulating in the world.
Here are two links to help deepen our Lenten and Covid-19 journey:
Bishop Robert Baron
EWTN Mass for March 21, 2020
We’re in the week of the fourth Sunday of Advent. The entrance antiphon:
“Rejoice Jerusalem and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast (Isa. 66: 10-11).”
God has placed within everyone a burning thirst for Him, the light of all nations. We just have to turn our weak gaze toward Him who searches for us because He loves us beyond our imagination. This global trial uniting us can hurl us toward Him. Let us fix our eyes on him. He will take care of the rest.
The desire for God is written in the human heart because man is created by God and for God, and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for. (CCC: 27)