When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
~ Revelation 6:7-8 New International Version (NIV)
Given the widespread panic that has erupted across the world during the past week concerning the coronavirus, I cannot help but consider the way this disease is affecting the Christian faith. I have tried to ignore it and not feed the fire by adding my own anxiety to the growing hysteria, but when Disneyland closes, the Olympics may be postponed, and Masses are being canceled, I can no longer disregard the situation. I understand the desire for caution and doing everything possible within our limited power to keep this virus from spreading, but when these precautions threaten my ability to receive Jesus Christ, I know this virus is far greater than another contagious disease.
I do not believe it is coincidence that this “plague” happened to gain momentum just as the Lenten season began. I remember it was the first weekend in Lent that my church made the announcement that the reception of the chalice (the blood of Christ), along with the shaking of hands during the sign of peace, would be suspended. I have to admit I jokingly thought to myself that we were actually going to give up Jesus Christ for Lent!
As the weeks have continued, however, this small joke has become a terrifying reality. With every passing day, I hear of more and more churches shutting their doors and canceling Masses till further notice. I have seen holy water fonts filled with hand sanitizer instead of holy water. I have watched 24/7 adoration chapels close.
The effects this virus has had on the Catholic Church are obvious and horrific. A feeling of dread is stirring within me, and I must voice my concern and bring to light what has been kept in the dark. If this virus has the power to close the doors of churches, there is no doubt in my mind, it is a direct attack from the devil. The virus has cut people off from the “source and summit” of their faith, Jesus Christ. All the sacraments that we as Christians have come to rely on have been stripped away in one fell swoop (or a series of several blows).
Amid all this chaos, I am filled with faith by the grace of the Holy Spirit. I know the power of God, and that there is nothing in this world that He does not allow. I believe He will turn this seeming “death sentence” for His church and His followers into what is greater than our limited imaginations can conceive at this point.
We have lived with the comforts of the sacraments for such a long time that we have forgotten what it is like to have to fight for what we believe in. There are people in third-world countries that are dying for their faith, or suffering for it; perhaps we are who are more privileged need to know what this feels like. I may be over-dramatizing our current predicament, but I guarantee that by the end of this “siege,” all people will truly hunger and thirst for Jesus Christ, just as He hungers and thirsts for us.
This Lent is proving to be a challenge to my personal faith. Every day I wake up and the threat of being separated from my Savior grows greater. I am fortunate to live in a place that has not suspended Masses yet, but that may change at any time. Each day I must choose to trust instead of to fear. The enemy can take away my means of worshipping my Lord, but that enemy can never take away my own ability to worship and praise Him in my heart.
Deus Nobiscum! God is with us.