Our New Testament reading this Sunday is from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 5:8-14
You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.”
In these terrible times, we have reason to ask: where is the light of Christ, where is every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth? Why is it there are people, presumably good, who are facing this terrible disease as well as people who are presumably bad. One of the psalmist says that the rain from the Lord falls on the good and the bad.
As I am working on this, there has been a report of eleven priests in Italy who have died from the coronavirus. I presume these were good men. How many others have chosen to sacrifice, or at least risk, themselves for the sake of others? Look at all of the people who are in healthcare.
But there is an even more problematic issue that I think needs to be raised. The way I would frame it is as a question. Can we ascribe a reason for all of this? At the risk of being presumptuous, I’m going to suggest a reason for the disease having run around the world.
No, I do not believe it is a sign of God’s wrath, or his retribution. What I believe is that it is evidence that God has removed his protective hands from humanity. Please allow me to back up and explain.
Back in the year 2002 when the scandals of failed priests made the scene of our news broadcasts, we had a meeting of the priests of the archdiocese. The thing that struck me strongest out of all of this was recalling what happened to Israel when they failed to follow the holiness of God.
The result was that they were taken into captivity, and the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. The prophets had warned them about the risk of failing to follow God, but they did not seem to pay attention. They pursued what they wanted, and it almost destroyed them.
But God restored the nation after the people repented of the sins that they had committed. And then, God turned on the nations that he had used to correct his people Israel. Those nations, identified as Assyria and Babylon, were destroyed. THEIR power was broken. And they lost their place as world powers in their day.
I said to my brother priests at that meeting that we needed to begin praying for our country, especially the media, because they were taking such joy at seeing the church, in their estimation, fail. In reality, God was correcting his people and readying the church to be strong enough to face what was going to be coming. I think with this coronavirus we are seeing the beginning, just the beginning, of God’s correction with the world.
Now, that being said, remember I said I did not think it was a sign of his wrath or retribution, but simply a matter of his removing his protective hands. It was as if God was saying “if you choose to live that way, you are on your own.”
I do not think it is a mistake to look at where this virus began. Look at the way communist China has been such an enemy of life with their one child per family policy that caused 336 million abortions over the last 40 years! And, contrast that with the 61 million in the United States since it was named legal here. And, an estimated 1.5 billion worldwide.
The fact that this disease has spread worldwide comes as no surprise to me. But, let me emphasize again, as the psalmist said: the rain falls on the good and the bad. There are people who have lived a holy life who are suffering from this disease. Let me repeat, in my estimation, this is a sign of God’s choice to remove his protective hands. In effect, God is saying to humanity “if you choose to live that way, against my call to holiness, you are going to have to pay the consequences.”
Those consequences take the form of selfishness, greed, lack of love – genuine love, pride, arrogance… The list could go on. But the more serious consequences are not a disease here and now, or a failure of moral virtues and standards, but eternal damnation. Let me emphasize again: just because someone contracts the coronavirus does not mean they are condemned to hell. The most we can say of anybody is that they are a victim here. Good and bad, righteous and unrighteous, are all falling victim to this deadly disease.
So, what are we called to do? Like the prophets of the Old Testament, who were terribly persecuted for speaking truth, I believe it is time for the church to wake up and become the evangelizers that God has always intended us to be. It is not politically correct in our day and age to speak the things that I have already said. That does not make them untrue. If this wake-up-call to the church is not heard by us – and then by the world – I am afraid we will see much worse.
I do not know what, or when. But God is nothing if not consistent. If we do not wake up and call people back to holiness, I’m afraid this is only the beginning of the destruction of our societies.
God will not abandon his church. But in times of upheaval, it is often members of the church who first feel the brunt of this kind of social warfare. Please do not be deceived into complacency. There is a social warfare going on. I don’t know if you noticed it, but when Senator Schumer was haranguing the justices in front of the Supreme Court, there was a sign right behind him (and I do not believe it was an accident that this was seen) that said “protecting abortion access is a Catholic value”.
That kind of bold and blatant lie is evidence of the warfare we are in. Please make no mistake: God will not tolerate this forever. There is a holiness that God expects from his people. I repeat the closing part of Paul’s reading from the letter to the Ephesians: “awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
Here, during this greatly penitential season of Lent, when we are cut off from each other and the Sacraments, it is time for us to reconsider where we stand in this war for holiness and for the soul of our nation and the world. St. Joseph, patron of the universal church, pray for us. Saint Corona, and yes there is a Saint Corona, pray for us. Amen.