The COVID-19 coronavirus may be a divine scourge as well as a call to return to God affecting seriously one fourth of humanity, and which becomes a nightmare for those whose duty is to protect citizens against health threats. It looks as though many of us have completely forgotten the lesson of Peter walking on water (Matt 14 22:33). Fear of catching the virus results in churches being open in merely a handful of countries. Some of our media is keen to point out that “the absence of the church will be a great testimony to the presence of God in our care for our neighbors”. And even worse, baths at Lourdes, France where sick pilgrims normally bathed in the hope of healing are closed. So much hubris is ridiculous and frightening at the same time.
What if hypothetically Jesus were to celebrate the Last Supper on Thursday in the center of New York City, Montreal or Sydney? There is every likelihood that the majority of fear-stricken disciples having sent their Master the SMS with a lame excuse, would not turn up at all, while the rest having cold feet would come round wearing face masks and protective gloves. What a pity that sometimes Christian faith is like a balloon or a soap bubble, that a very humble assailant was all it took to bring low all Christian nations.
In no way does God desire man to be engulfed in fear since the phrase “Be not afraid” can be found in the Scriptures as many as 365 times in this or similar ways. ”The same night the LORD appeared to him and said: I am the God of Abraham, your father. Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for the sake of Abraham, my servant”(Gen 26:24). Likewise, it is no coincidence that a word `trust` with its variations is mentioned over 190 times in the Bible depending on which English translation we read. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your intelligence do not rely” (Prov 3:5). As Pope Francis announced ”Trusting in the Word of God allows us to overcome idolatry, pride, and excessive self-confidence”.
One may assume Our Lady was fully aware of the fact that being pregnant outside marriage meant she was likely to be stoned to death. She did not have the opportunity to say a Rosary, as we often have facing the serious threat of life, instead she lovingly placed her trust in God, the Father “be it done to me” accepting God’s plan, as far as Calvary.
St. Faustina Kowalska (†1938) wrote in her famous diary about God flooding man with his grace by means of trust: ”My daughter, I assure you of a permanent income on which you will live. Your duty will be to trust completely in My goodness, and My duty will be to give you all you need. I am making Myself dependent upon your trust: if your trust is great, then My generosity will be without limit”. (Diary 548)
On December 14, 1991, Our Lord revealed to another Polish mystic, Alicja Lenczewska (†2012) the value of daring confidence in God ”If only people recognized their weakness and addressed the Heavenly Father with childlike simplicity, trusting Him in everyday situations, then divine power and holiness would fill both them and the whole world, and the Holy Spirit would transform everything into the Kingdom of Love”.
The meaningful words of John Paul II(†2005) in his Inaugural Homily continue to reverberate in us “Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ…”
“Place all your trust in the Immaculata alone, and she will guide you. Therefore submit yourself unconditionally to her will and fight in peace, with boundless confidence in her, and all the weaknesses will be transformed into a still greater good.” One might say that St. Maximilian Kolbe(†1941) trusted God so much because he never owned anything.
St. John Bosco(†1888) is renowned for his numerous prophetic dreams which he began to experience as early as age nine. However, not everybody knows that when the cholera epidemic swept across Italy in 1854, with death rate of up to 60 per cent, not only had he informed in advance the youth of the Oratory of the coming plague, but also reassured them by saying that they would be safe if they carried out his recommendations; the first one was to keep clear of sin, the second one to have recourse to prayer, and what was the most important, to devoutly wear a blessed Marian medal. After over two months of caring for the sick, just as St. John Bosco had pledged, none of them fell ill with the disease. No, wonder, St. Thérèse of Lisieux(†1897) uttered “Trust works miracles”. That was not an isolated incident. Several years before, that is in 1832 Paris was struck by a dreadful cholera epidemic which claimed 20,000 lives. No sooner did the infected receive Miraculous medals than many reports of cures started coming in. Symptoms of the plague were observed to leave the victims and withdraw into the gutters of the capital of France.
The History of the Church is imbued with extraordinary instances when the power and order of nature was surpassed by God. Many religious and lay people, heedless of danger, some of them unnamed heroes, in spite of attending the sick they did not contract the plague, and after years they died of natural causes; to mention just a few: St. Rita of Cascia(†1457), St. Charles Borromeo(†1584), St. Virginia Centurione Bracelli(†1651), Bl. Peter Donders(†1887), Bl. Jan Beyzym(†1912), St. Marianne Cope(†1918), St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta(†1997). One must not fail to remember – God is bigger than any bacteria or virus!
Making acts of trust does not mean that troubles vanish but it brings us to experience God’s faithfulness in reply. Then we realize that, in this or that situation, which seemed absolutely unsolvable, things have mysteriously sorted themselves out. Meanwhile, distrust paralyses our activity and greatly benefits the Adversary.
In a moment of economic crisis, such as the current one, especially as more and more people are living from hand to mouth in obscurity therefore not enough to be a good Christian. We are all called to completely surrender ourselves to Jesus, because only in this way can He enter into our hearts and fill them with love, peace and joy. Such an example of total abandoning oneself to God can be an Italian, stigmatic and mystic Brother Elia. In face of pandemic he is appealing for “Be brave priests, our friends! Have courage to preach the Good News and be shepherds.” In another article Semen est Sanguis Christianorum, which was mainly designed for Catholic clergy, I illustrated exemplary figures of unwavering faith and particular fortitude.
Through the Italian Servant of God, Fr. Dolindo Routolo(†1970), Jesus clearly indicates how to rid oneself of detrimental agitation. “Abandonment in Me does not mean being frustrated, becoming anxious and desperate, offering Me your anxious prayer, that I may follow you and have your anxiety be a prayer. Abandonment means to shut the eyes of your soul in peace, moving your thoughts away from your troubles, and instead of thinking about your worries and pain, let Me take over your troubles. Simply say: Jesus, You take over. To be worried, restless, and to think of the consequences of an event is the opposite of reliance, it is really contrary to it”.
“These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents [with their hands], and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16 17:18)