This is one of a series of pastoral and personal reflections on living in this time of pandemic. Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, writes this reflection titled “Who’s in charge here anyway?” for Catholic News Service. This is the first in an occasional series of reflections CNS will have from some U.S. Catholic bishops.
It feels as though we are in uncharted waters. Certainly in the lifetime of most of us we cannot recall experiencing a time such as this. We have heard of pestilences such as Ebola and have shuddered to consider what people on the other side of the world have experienced. But it never happened here!
Here in the USA we had things under control. We are the most prosperous, most technologically advanced nation in the world. Sure we had our challenges, but still, we had things under control.
Then a tiny little new virus comes along. It was named corona for its shape. Isn’t that cute? It begins by bringing the proud dictatorship of China to its knees. That was too bad. Then it started making its way to other places. It really began disrupting our travel plans. How inconsiderate of that tiny little pest!
The virus continued its persistent assault until it arrived on our hallowed shores — without a visa! And we began to discover that we were just as vulnerable as the rest of the world had been. No amount of technology has yet been able to hold it off. Our Army, the strongest in the world, is powerless against this covert enemy.
As it drew closer and closer to our communities our concern began to grow. We began to fear for ourselves and for our loved ones. An initial reaction was to fight it by using our most vaunted weapon against human fear and suffering — we began to shop! We began to empty the stores. If we could only have all the food and toilet paper we could possibly need then we would feel better. But the truth is that no material thing is going to do it this time.
In a moment like this we know deep in our hearts that there is only One who can help us. We need a superhero. We need God to come to the rescue and fix this situation, like a genie in the bottle who will grant our wish. But where is God anyway? Why has God, if God is out there at all, allowed this to happen? And why didn’t he fix things when we asked?
Maybe we should start by not casting a blaming eye at God. Maybe we ought to start looking within. Not to say that this is caused by us. We are not that powerful. But look within to recognize the truth about ourselves — that we have lived an illusion. We, in the USA, were not in control after all. Consuming would never fill the emptiness in our hearts. No amount of drugs, legal or otherwise, no amount of alcohol, no amount of food, no amount of porn or sex, no amount of money will fill that place within us that is reserved for the love of our Creator.
This world is a broken temporary place that is not our permanent home and no earthly power is going to transform it into our paradise. God is not the genie that will do that for us either.
Here we are at the end of Lent, the beginning of Easter. They are not really two distinct seasons. They are one uninterrupted procession with our Savior through all that life can throw our way, through apparent defeat in his Crucifixion and Death, to that glorious Easter morning and beyond.
Can you see him walking through the clouds and the mist, standing upon the uncharted waters of our lives today? Can you hear him calling out to us, “Do not be afraid! I am with you!” Yes! The Risen One is in our midst. He seemed to have been defeated by the brokenness and evil present in our world. Perhaps we had an illusion that we were in charge. We had forgotten that Jesus came for a moment such as this!
Seek him now! Let us ask our Savior to help us, to walk with us, to save us. Just as for the disciples locked up in their houses in fear he will enter into our midst and say to us, “Peace be with you!”