Dear Brother Knights,
This has been a difficult few months for us all. There have been so many adjustments and changes to our lives as a result of COVID-19. We certainly would never have believed it if someone had told us last September that we would have spent half the next year in our own houses. As we begin to peek out from hiding, we are encountering a rise in the number of cases that threatens to drive us back into our cubbies. What are we to make of all this? We did try a few ways to get together. We had some of our meetings by zoom to continue to encounter each other, at least visually and eventually graduated to hybrid meeting whereby some people came to my back yard (with social distancing) and others joined by zoom. It was largely a success in that we were able to meet but Still there were quite a few people shy at coming out in public again. And, I don’t blame them for their concern.
In all this, How does God fit in? What are we to make of all this death and disease? Has God abandoned us? Is this a plague from God for having sinned (and boy have we sinned as a people), or at least, a message from God telling us to “Straighten up” and get our act together? A recent survey by Chicago School of Divinity suggested that 1/3 of Catholics believe that and nearly half of Evangelicals.
It’s a common question we have been asking in one form or another for millenia. It’s the question of Suffering. Natural suffering has confounded us since the dawn of time. Why is it here? Why are we as a people facing this tribulation? In Numbers, Chapter 21, we read of the case of the Israelites griping against the Lord and suddenly they find they are being invaded by serpents, who bite them and they die. At God’s instruction Moses fashioned a bronze Serpent and put it on a staff.
Anyone who was bitten would look on it and live. We still use that same symbol in our medical profession as a symbol of healing.
So, God does allow us to encounter suffering. He may even will it when we are not following His way. But, is this what is happening now? Unfortunately, we may never know ourselves. In the generations to come, revelation may indeed show our descendants that we were being punished but I believe this Suffering is not the hand of God, that he is not killing his people for being sinners. I believe it’s up to us to use this opportunity God has given to us to change ourselves and to come to recognise the ways we have been living that are unhealthy, both physically and spiritually.
For example, we are now looking at how our stores and our church is being cleaned fastidiously to prevent the spread of the contagion. How we are all keeping watch over where we put our hands and how long it’s been since we last sanitized or washed them. We are wearing masks to protect others (evidence shows that’s the biggest effect, the protection of others from us, not the protection of us from others.) We are recognising ways that we may never be the same again and hopefully we will be a safer and healthier society for it.
We are also seeing dramatic changes to our spiritual lives as well. Now, here is our biggest opportunity to see a positive outcome. Many are longing for the Eucharist, Treasuring the hope of being able to return to Church and receive Holy Communion once again. Yet, how many of us took it for granted and for how many years? How many of us took Mass for granted, and for that matter God? Suddenly, we are confronted with the realization that these things are not mundane, to be just expected. No longer can we just ‘show up’ on Sunday and get our fix for the week. We must seek out ways to gather in the Lord, seek out the means to attend confession and to participate in Mass.
Many of us have been able to attend online. Thanks to the super efforts of a few dedicated people, we have been able to feel some of that togetherness in the chat alongside the video screen. How I loved to see the Baker wish me a blessed Sunday or see prayers we had sent in by chat actually being pronounced on the altar! The few times I have been blessed to actually attend Mass these past 6 months left me with a profound sense of relief and awe at receiving the Eucharist. That first time, after Cynthia and I had sung for one of the virtual masses, Father Amato, told us we could come to the altar and carefully slide one host off the patten and take it. It was awe inspiring. I was almost in tears of joy. How many times in the past have we felt so truly grateful for the ability to receive? To pray with others? To listen to the homilist in person? There are so many blessings I have been taking for granted for so long. I think it will be an equally long time before I ever do again. How about you?