“The government shouldn’t tell me what to do.” I get it. I am a laissez-faire capitalist myself. I believe in the individual freedoms that our Constitution affords us. One has to wonder in an election year how much politicizing “social distance” and “shelter in place” orders have in them. Even the use of these terms was specifically chosen in order to get people to follow the order.
Yet, in regard to Covid-19, we need to take a step back. We spent the Spring in isolation to make sure that we “flattened the curve.” That is, trying to not overwhelm the capability of hospitals to treat those seriously ill with the virus during the pandemic. It worked, but we are still asked to wear masks to minimize the risk of transmission. Wearing masks was, and is, solely to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others, not to prevent ourselves from being infected. Still, I often hear how being told to “wear a mask” is a restriction of individual freedoms.
I agree with the cynicism of politicians calling for a “common good” as it usually ends up being mostly for the “good” of elected officials. Such politicization has caused us to lose our focus. But we have to ask ourselves, “Since when does our individual freedom overrule the risk of giving a serious virus to another?” Does the Bible say, “cough unto others as others cough unto you?” Seriously. If the Good Samaritan had Covid-19, he still would have helped his neighbor, but not without first taking care to keep his germs to himself.
This distraction of “freedoms” is readily apparent in the churches of Illinois. Catholic churches opened with diocesan-imposed guidelines for wearing masks and registering for mass attendance. People entering a church are temperature screened and physically distanced in the pew (“socially distanced” is not the correct term in the Internet age). Parishioners, clergy, and staff are required to wear masks inside the building. Ministers of communion follow protocols for wearing face shields and hand washing. In response, some routinely decry outrage at “the bishops giving in to the Governor.” Again, let us take a step back. The goal remains to not spread the virus to others while we receive Christ – body, blood, soul, and divinity. Does such “outrage” compare to the gift of the Eucharist? Martyrs have given their lives to keep the faith intact. We decry at the inconvenience of wearing a mask.
Others complain that “Big Brother” is alive in contact tracing measures used with registering for Masses. I respect the “freedoms” people choose in avoiding these lists. So do the bishops – the suspension of the obligation to attend Mass in person during the pandemic still has not been lifted. For me, I am glad Illinois is tracking my attendance at Church. Please make the files available to St. Peter so his records are up to date too. In fact, please also track for the politicians that I still go to Mass, vote Catholic, and believe direct abortion of any kind is murder. If I have been exposed to Covid-19, please let me know so I do not place others at risk. Jesus asks that I place others first – or at least care for them as much as I care for me.
I wonder at times if our faith has returned to a mentality of the Middle Ages. Some have said Holy Water should still be readily available – as if it is an antiviral. I do believe that blessed sacramentals, prayer and the Eucharist can cure any illness – if God intends it. We do not use them as “blessed charms” working as magical incantations. They are solely to direct our faith to Jesus. Power is in the prayer, not the materials. Our faith is in God, not a destiny that we think we can manipulate or control.
In nearby Wisconsin, communion is being received on the tongue. I have been told this is ok because it is the “Body of Christ.” Yes, it is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. Yet, I recently asked my daughter to attend a parish in Illinois for Mass. Communion is not a “vaccine” against Covid-19. It is to be reverenced; however, there is no reason to assume it is free of a potential for Covid-19 transmission. “Holy” has never been a term used to replace “sterile.” God created nature but our free will corrupted it. God overcomes the laws of nature when He intends to, not at random nor for our convenience. We must recall that in transubstantiation, the substance is changed, not the accidents. Bacteria and viruses remain bacteria and viruses. We do not put God to the test.
Rather than outrage, let us turn to prayer. It remains our biggest weapon against the Enemy. Let us pray for an end of the suffering of those affected in the pandemic. Let us pray in gratitude for the economy not crashing like it is 1929. Let us see God in the first responders, grocery clerks and those who risked infection for our needs and not just theirs. We need to ask God to soften our hearts to clearly see His actions in the pandemic. Rather than criticize others, let us extend a hand to assist in whatever manner the Spirit calls us to do.
Is the pandemic evil? Nature is not evil until it becomes corrupted by man. Still, our view has been tainted. Our focus has been on our inconvenience, not on the path forward in faith. We know “waiting for God” is not the way it works. That is putting Him to the test once again. Our faith requires us to be the “hands of Jesus.” What have we done to help relieve the suffering of others in this pandemic?
We see so much evil in society at the moment that one wonders what forces are really at play. Do we stand with the Church, or on the sidelines acquiescing to the Evil One? If we continue to solely focus on “me,” evil wins. Faith does not lead to a life free of inconveniences. Few saints have escaped persecution. We celebrate the faith we see in their response. Jesus promised to walk with us in time of joy and trial. Jesus was like us in all ways but sin. (CCC 467) As such, he caught colds. He could get the flu. What would Jesus do in our pandemic? He would start by wearing a mask.