This whole COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of worries, collapses, ruins, and distresses on many different levels of our society, nation, and as individuals. It has brought the best out of people in many cases, but we have also seen some of the worst things that have arisen from human beings as well. This pandemic challenges us on so many different levels because it removes us from our normalcy, securities, and desire to be in control. We hate it as a society and as individuals to not have an immediate answer, plan, solution, and quick eradication of this viral pandemic as to “get back to ways things were.” So many people think that the government, scientists, and healthcare professionals are supposed to make things right again, make sure things go back to the way it was before the pandemic, and restore their livelihood like it was when the economy was doing good before this outbreak. Unfortunately, we have put our dependency on the wrong people as well as expect something that is impossible in such a short timeframe. Ultimately, there is only One who can move us forward and heal us deep from within, but not according to our expectations and timetables.
First, we have to recognize that, as post-modern people, we put too much of our dependency and expectation on science. We think that as we make scientific progress and have cutting-edge technologies, we will be invincible. We think that as long we are smart enough to predict and stay ahead of the game, we will be fine. We think that only poorer countries would be affected by diseases and pandemic outbreaks, but that was our arrogance. We thought that we were better than others but to find out that we are still but human beings. We thought that our scientific progress, developments, and technologies are top of the world and we can handle, vindicate, and eradicate anything. We built for ourselves our own post-modern Tower of Babel and thought that we could save ourselves because we have enough resources, monies, and abilities. We thought that we have control over lesser things and have an upper hand on nature, but we were wrong.
Every time there is a natural disaster or crisis, we get angry. Hence, his pandemic outbreak makes us despair. Why? We have created and expected things to be normal and as we like. We do not want our lives to be disturbed and plans changed. Every time nature reminds us that we cannot control it, either on the geological or biological level, we get angry because we have to face our inefficiencies, finitude, and mortality. We are but finite. We do not have it all together. We do not have absolute control over nature. We are but mortals.
Our arrogance turns us against God because we are angry that we are not in control. We blame the Almighty because we have to face our limitations instead of having things our ways because we are used to the image of Him making things right for us. We expect God to provide, fix, and make sure that things go well as if He is our butler, servant, or a magician. We dislike the truth because it challenges our egocentric desires to put ourselves first with our own needs, pleasures, and satisfaction — our own self-created definition of happiness. Reality sucks because it tells us that we are not our own gods, standards of judgment, and criteria of truth. We are nothing but mortals and we are finite.
Hence, in our anger and frustration, we tend to react in two EITHER/OR extremities. When we feel that we are out of control, we either recede with fear or taking our chances with whatever we want. There are people who are living on two extremes at this moment! One group is filled with despair and is scared because they finally recognized how infectious this virus can be. When they recognize that they are not safe and that there is quick cure yet, they locked themselves behind their own physical, emotional, and psychological safety nets, yet they remain their own prisoners of fear. The other group dismisses the reality of this viral infectiousness because they think they know better, feel invincible, and want to be free to do whatever they want, even at the costs of others. Yet, both of these two extremes are based on the egocentric self, either in its fragility or its arrogance, in its reactions to fear or its desire to do whatever it wants. Hence, both of these extremes are based on our human understandings, expectations, demands, and desires but lack the true acceptance, prudence, and practice of charity, especially dependency on God.
This viral pandemic and its infection rate are like sin. Even though we cannot see the actual virus and how it can easily transmit to others, how it personally affects each individual when they contract it, we know of its contagious infectiousness. Some people are more affected because of their physical limitations and underlying health issues while some just brushed it off thinking that they are young and healthy enough. Sin acts the same way, we get more affected by it when we have allowed ourselves to be spiritually unhealthy and vulnerable, but that does not mean we are free from its temptations, attacks, and lies when we think we are in the state of grace. All of us are affected by sin, to varying degrees. Some of us will be more affected because we are not spiritually prepared, unhealthy, and lived without His grace for a long time. Some of us will be able to withstand and fight it off when we seek forgiveness of our sins and live in the state of grace. Either way, sin affects us and we can feel its immediate and relational effects in different degrees. Our humanity and its fragility, our mortality and finitude, remind us that we cannot do this by ourselves. We need God and one another.
This pandemic affects us. It has created a new societal shift. There is no going back to past normalcy, we can only learn how to adapt and move forward with all its financial, social, personal, and human consequences and effects. This pandemic challenges us to recognize our finitude, mortality, and dependency on God‘s grace to overcome all things. He knows that we are being tested and really dislike uncertainties. He knows that we like our human-made securities and procrastinates on spiritual matters. He knows that we are so occupied with our daily struggles and delays our preparation for His eternal, everlasting, and never-changing love. He knows that it is hard and that is why He reminded His own Apostles, as well as us now as His present time disciples, to be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. (cf. Matthew 10:16-23)
A snake will not attack unless it is in danger. It would rather slither away or coil up in defense than to attack someone or something more dangerous than itself. Therefore, it is important to know our limitations and act with prudence when we are dealing with matters that are beyond us. Nevertheless, simplicity as a dove is also very important so we can keep our hearts pure, focused, and dependent on God. Purity and simplicity of heart allow us to see things are so we can learn to reflect, pray, and discern all things according to our Christian vocation, eternal, and everlasting goods. Even if we cannot change things, we can still embrace all challenges, creative tensions, and uncertainties with hope, prudence, and wisdom, not just for our own goods, immediate or short-term satisfaction, or desirable pleasures.
We are called to take the time to cultivate our inner sanctum grounds, care, nurture, and enrich our seeds of faith so that what has begun in each and every one of us can be brought to fulfillment in His own time, not just in this world or with what we would have liked, but for all eternity, world without end. The Lord Jesus Christ never gave His disciples the certain, scientific, calculative, and exact answer of when the world would come to an end. Contrary to many self-made end-of-the-world experts who are preaching as if they know the truth and have the exact answer at this moment, none of us know the exact timing. Our world has been through many trials, hardships, wars, pandemics, and unimaginable challenges, but we had and will continue to overcome them when we recognize our dependency on Him and choose to care for one another. When humanity chooses to let go of its fears, reservations, agendas, demands, expectations, and personal pleasures in order to come together for the greater good, we had and will continue to overcome every evil that is in front of us in due time.
If we know, control, and can manipulate everything, how would we ever learn how to trust, let go, and prepare our hearts to receive greater things from Him than what we think we deserve or like? If we get what we want and stay in our own securities, would we ever strive to go beyond ourselves to seek Him, increase our desire to love, serve, and sacrifice ourselves for the greater good? If we have everything normal as we would have liked or planned, would we ever allow ourselves to increase in grace and good works in anticipation of greater things that are transcendental, eternal, and everlasting from the heart of God? No, probably not. If we know and have things our way, we would most likely live as we are, leave our desire for conversion and prayer when everything else failed, for the day before, or when we have no one else to blame but ourselves and God — so it is easier to blame Him.
Whatever is going on in the world right now, they only have meaning in relation to Him and should be arranged with Him in view. The sober awareness that we are not in control, that our past is out of hand and the future is uncertain leaves us with only the present moment. We cannot procrastinate and demand that God and others to fix things so we can have our normalcy again. Change begins with us, not simply practical and humanistic ones, but in-depth, spiritual, and heartfelt matters that sanctify our days by grounding them in His faithful love. We can and will remain truly free when we are able to rise above the fears, ready to adapt and learn new ways, especially to prepare for the most important thing that matters in this whole present chaos and for eternity — our readiness and relationship with Him.