The shadow of the dreaded coronavirus looms over the world. In its devastating wake lies untold suffering, as hundreds of thousands are rushed to mass burials with their loved ones deprived of a dignified, healing farewell. Let us calmly maintain our Christian balance, carefully avoiding over optimistic expressions of immanent success or dire predictions of worse to come. How ironic it is, that in an age of unprecedented access to information, during a crisis, thanks to social media, most of what you get is misinformation, hysteria and disinformation.
Still the age-old questions, which have bedevilled the human mind for so long, surface. “Where is your loving God now?” taunt the godless, while even the faithful questions, ”Why does God allow it?” is surely is an echo of that heartbreaking cry of Christ from the Cross ”My God, My God why have you abandoned me?” The words of George Eliot in the novel Adam Bede, springs to mind, “ There is no despair so absolute as that which comes with the first moments of a sudden great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is to have suffered and be healed, to have despaired and yet recovered hope.”
God is not in the business of punishing and harming the most vulnerable. Long ago, He blessed us with two precious gifts that make us the images of Himself namely Intellectuality and Free will. Gifts to be used to maintain His creation in good order. So, when we misuse our free wills and remain ignorant of the things, we should know, we can hardly blame God for the ensuring evils. Imploring Him to intervene and control free wills is surely asking Him to create illogically a square circle.
Yet how does the Christian answer such crisis? Despite all the suffering, the loss of loved ones, despite the widespread misery our hearts are stirred up with feelings of pity, tenderness, faith and courageous determination to assist in whatever way possible. One of the best ways to combat this is to simply do what’s best for others, imbuing them with a strong faith and unquestionable hope, for faith only has real meaning in times of widespread faithlessness, as hope only has real meaning in times of hopelessness. A Christian so imbued will surely dream of better times to come as Michael Henry, in his song Dare to Dream, encourages us to do.
“Dare to dream with wings that take you across the pain that scars the world. Fly swift, fly sure. have courage and live the dream. Be strong in faith, in hope and love; live out the dream.”
It is indeed a spiritual truth that periods of hardship offer the opportunity to attain greater personal growth, more than during the good times. Perhaps, the challenges we are facing individually and globally are God’s way of revealing to us opportunities for growth, giving, and achieving closeness to Him and to our fellow human beings. Such sensitivity to the sufferings of others makes us think and feel and surely thinking and feeling makes us more warmly human.
Fr Frank Freeman SDB is the editor of the Australian Salesian Bulletin, published by the Australia-Pacific Province of the Salesians of Don Bosco.