A Catholic Monthly Magazine

A Faith Response to Coronavirus

By Fr Ben McKenna SM

At this time when the whole world is preoccupied with the Corona Virus Covid-19, how are we, as People of Faith, called to think, pray, and act?

God’s name, and nature, is revealed to us as “I am with you”. This is the name of the God who began the unfolding of creation some 13.8 billion years ago; who formed our planet some 4 billion years ago, brought about the human emergence some 200,000 years ago, revealed this name to Moses some 3,500 years ago, to Isaiah some 2,700 years ago, and married himself to us and his creation some 2000 years ago in the person in Jesus - the eternal, generative Word, become flesh. Our God is with us in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. God honours us and loves us all the days of our lives, and brings us, through death, to the fullness of life with all those who have entered into covenant fidelity with God and with one another.

God, who has been with our planet as it has passed through 5 mass extinctions; and is with us as we face what significant scientists are saying could be a possible sixth, unless we simplify our lifestyle. Each resurrection of the planet, each new beginning, has been more beautiful and wonderful than what preceded it. The paschal mystery of suffering, death, and resurrection – which we celebrate each Lent and Easter, is written into the fabric of the unfolding of the universe. We are called to be part of it, and we do this by being the heart and mind, body and presence of Christ in our world.

We are being called by Pope Francis, in Laudato Si’, to slow down from the ‘rapidification’ of our intense way of life, which contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution [18]. We are called to ponder, to wonder, to re-discover the reality of “universal fraternity” [228], to set before the world the ideal of “a civilization of love” [231], to engage ourselves in one or more of “a countless array of organisations which work to promote the common good” [232], to experience “the intimate connection between God and all beings” [234], to experience our body “in its inner nature as a temple of the Holy Spirit, united with the Lord Jesus, who himself took a body for the world’s salvation [235], whom we find in the Eucharist as “the living centre of the universe, the overflowing core of love and of inexhaustible life [236].

With this faith we are enabled to face the Coronavirus, which since last December, has impacted on millions of people globally, and which has become a pandemic. The ‘rapidificaton’ of our civilisation has been forced to slow down. Flights have been cancelled, many cities and towns are in ‘lockdown’, major sporting events have been suspended, universities and schools have been closed for a time, pilgrimages have been banned, people are being called to self-isolate.

This is an opportunity for us to rediscover the fundamental virtue of humility. We are utterly dependent on the mystery of God’s gift of life, manifested through our inter-dependence on one another and all living and non-living creatures given to us to support and maintain our life.

When one part of the body suffers, all suffer (1 Corinthians 12.26). The whole world is now suffering; but this is also a call to greatness. Doctors, nurses, and medical staff are stepping up, working long hours, at the front line, in danger of being contaminated themselves. With the wounded healer [Isaiah 53], they take others’ sufferings on themselves. Administrators at all levels, in countries, cities, villages, towns, and as parents and guardians in families, are making decisions on how to protect their citizens, and families. May each of us, through information, conversation, awareness, prayer, and commitment find a way to make our personal and communal contribution to those who are most at risk at this time. Mary, mother of the new creation, pray for us.

Fr Bernard (Ben) McKenna SM is a Society of Mary Assistant General based in Rome. This article first appeared in the Marist JPIC blog, and is used with permission.

Photos: National Geographic

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