Covid-19: Providence and a call to creative love

A man at the window of his apartment during a musical flash mob in Rome, Italy, on March 12. People have been coming to their windows to hear an uplifting song or to entertain each other. The nationwide effort to lift morale came as Italy endures a near total lockdown in a bid to slow spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Photo: CNS

Father José Granados

In the liturgy of the Word in the days of Lent, we read about Israel’s departure from Egypt, when God delivered them from the scourge of plagues. With the Covid-19 contagion turning out to be a pandemic, the exodus scene comes to life again in our modern times. And it reminds us that God is no stranger to anything that happens to us. Together with the Psalmist we say, “My days are in your hands” (Ps 31:16). Whoever entrusts everything into the hands of God with faith, also can entrust the dreaded virus and its spread into his hands. 

The physicians and scientists have tried to explain to us theories as to the why, how and what of the Covid-19 coronavirus and its causes and effects, but have failed to provide a comprehensive explanation. It is here that faith provides the ultimate horizon that unifies these partial views. 

Of course, a believer does not have all the answers, but he knows who does. He knows him and knows how to invoke him! Only the one who has the answers can help him live this hour of despair with meaning. Believing in God means that our “why” can become “what for.”

Pope St. John Paul II said, “In the programme of the kingdom of God, suffering is present in the world to provoke love, to give birth to works of love for our neighbour” (Salvifici Doloris 30). The present suffering from the virus has ensured that love for our fellow brethren is revived in us. God’s providence is manifested in the world through the mutual support and love for one another in this hour of need. So, whoever believes in providence does not respond with sloppiness or irresponsibility, but with love.

The virus has taught humanity a great lesson! This virus is both life-threatening and a threat to our common life. We are afraid to be together; to work together. Thus, it hurts the hearts of people who yearn for communion. 

By forcing humankind to stay distanced and in isolation, and remain separated from physical proximity, it has helped us to discover how valuable our physical interactions are!  For we find that we have no life if it is not life experienced together; that we cannot flourish as solitary individuals, but only as members of a family, school, neighbourhood … The virus unmasks the lie of individualism and testifies to the beauty of the common good.

And so, Covid-19 is an awakening to love. We learn to take up the suffering and anguish of others as our own. 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. But this pain must increase among us the works of love for our neighbour. 

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The difficulty of not having physical contact will require an intelligent love that invents new forms of presence. Technological means will help us express that closeness and emotional support for one another that vaccinates us against the virus of individualism and selfishness. 

Waking up to love will also be an awakening to new ways of working together. Because the pain of the virus, in addition to causing the disease, also causes the pain of anxiety—of not knowing what to expect or how to get the thousand things out of everyday life. It causes the fatigue of redoing plans and enduring the wait. 

And intelligent and creative love will enable new ways of being teachers who carry on their educational task and their support for students; new ways of being parents who invent chores and games for their children, and find more time to spend with the family; new ways of being shepherds who continue to accompany their faithful; and new ways of being families who inspire and share their creativity with other families.

The forced isolation due to the virus can help people delve into the big question about the “what for” of everything. 

In short, this creativity of love will help us discover that love has an inexhaustible source. The present pains will awaken us to love if we turn our gaze to God, the source and channel of all love. 

The forced isolation due to the virus can help people 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 wanted to respond to human 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 of the pandemic, 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. 

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For in every Mass that a priest says, even if he is alone, we will all be present and the grace of Christ 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 liturgy through online media, the invocation of Mary through the rosary …

In the time of Lent, we speak of giving up or fasting from things that we love most—it could be some food items, some entertainment activities, or other things. 

It is possible that, as is already happening in our city, we 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 body of Christ, 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 perfect love that never ends. 

“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” (Psalm 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.

Originally published in Spanish

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