In These Difficult Days

First, I am so very grateful to all the first responders and the medical professionals who are on the frontline during these difficult days of pandemic. Their courage and dedication exemplify what is good and noble about our humanity, and there is no way to repay them for the way they have put their lives on the line, not only here in America, but around the world.  Our civil servants and political leaders also have been dedicated and I am thankful to them for engaging tough discussions and tough decisions, and for keeping us informed. There is and will be adamant disagreement – that is part of our national character. Yet, deeper than our divisions, God is at work and our graciousness to one another during this time is a testimony to His providential guidance.  Finally, the men and women of our armed forces have also rallied for us, and I am very grateful for their sacrifices and leadership.

It is in this context that a deeper discernment of what is really going on in this pandemic needs consideration. Whenever things go wrong, there is a destructive tendency to want to point fingers, blame, find fault, and scapegoat one another. Yes, we have sinned, and the plight that we deserve for our actions is always before us.  However, instead of taking stalk and repenting for my own callousness (indeed, our own actions and judgments are the only things we can really change about the world), we point the finger at others: political leaders, foreign enemies, or anyone else I can distance myself from.

We do this with God as well. He is the easiest to scapegoat, for He never defends Himself, but humbly accepts our accusations even when it costs Him everything. Yet the God of life has no desire that his children should suffer and die, and He will never abandon us, though it means going to the edge of doom to reach out and bring us home.  Such is the immensity of His love that even in the face of all this evil and fear, He remains.

Who is God? God is love. Christ, the image of the invisible God, revealed this to us when, in obedience to His Father, He stretched out His arms on the Cross to suffer our doom with us so that even should we die, we will have life. We who are in His Image and Likeness are made to make Him who is love known so that the truth about Him might enlighten the hearts of those who have lost their way. When we believe in Him, warmth returns to hearts that have grown cold. He has the power to forgive sin, to close the door to any evil we have let into our hearts. He is revealed every time we make the determined decision to love one another, no matter the cost, even in the smallest things. By faith, each moment of our lives flows from and leads back to the offering of love that Christ has poured out through His blood. Call on Him with faith and perseverance, and no matter the trial or oppressing circumstances, the love of God will triumph.

 

The battle we fight is not against mere flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). This is why playing the blame game with each other never really solves the problems that we must face. It would seem that the enemies of all that is good, noble and true about humanity have been unleashed with this virus. The evil we face is an ancient foe, a murderer from the beginning. He is the Accuser and he delights when we accuse, especially when we accuse God. Unable to bear his own fault, he faults God and all the goodness that comes from God. Bent on our destruction, he will work to bring out the worst in us. He plants rash judgment, sews distrust, stirs confusion, excites contention and robs of courage. His, however, is not the final word about humanity, and the misery in which he would engulf us has its limits. For God Himself has taken our side against this adversary, and no power in heaven, on earth or under the earth can come between us and the love of God.  On the basis of this love and for the sake of this love, we must resist the enemies of humanity and fight the spiritual battle that these times demand.

That is why such faith is called for today. Indeed, in the face of evil, affirming that God is a loving Father and that He is all-powerful is one of the most difficult and one of the most powerful movements of heart the human person must learn to offer.  When loved ones suffer distress and we feel powerless to relieve it, or when a friend is isolated and afraid, and there seems to be no word of hope that can soothe his anxiety, it is precisely in these moments where we must cleave to our faith in the God who is Love and ask for His help. He who descended into Hell to liberate our first parents is no less dedicated to our liberation from anything that might compromise our integrity or threaten our dignity.

The Lord is our Savior and His saving help is only a prayer away: Oh Savior, save us!

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on SpiritualDirection.com and is reprinted here with kind permission.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Anthony Lilles

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Anthony Lilles is co-founder and Academic Dean of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation and also serves as the Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Theology at St. John’s Seminary. He is a founding faculty member of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary where he was Academic Dean for nine years. Dr. Lilles has provided graduate level courses on a variety of topics including the Eucharist, the Sacraments of Healing, Church History, Spiritual Theology, Spiritual Direction and on various classics of Catholic Spirituality.

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