Satan can use it but Jesus likes to use the very things that please the devil most — to thwart him.
To be clear, I don’t mean COVID-19 is literally the work of Satan; it’s a virus, and part of our natural fallen world. What I mean is that Satan can use it to do exactly what he wants done in our lives: Attack faith, attack love, attack hope.
But Jesus uses the very things that please the devil most to thwart him.
“Almighty God,” says the Catechism, “would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.”
That ancient Homily for Holy Saturday expresses how this works at Easter: Satan tricked Adam and Eve in a garden, so Jesus’ burial tricked Satan in a garden. They stretched out their hands to a tree of life and got death, so he stretched out his hands on the cross of death to give them life. Their sin exiled them from Eden, so Jesus’ mercy will enthrone them in heaven.
In the same way, Satan delights in the enormous grief the coronavirus has caused by making people suffer and die alone — but Jesus Christ intends to turn lonely tears into shouts of joy in the company of heaven.
I love seeing how Catholics are taking the very aspects of the pandemic that please the devil and using them to thwart him.
The pandemic separated us from Mass, but opened up a wealth of opportunities for faith.
“If not for the pandemic, we wouldn’t have had a retreat like this,” said Father Jay Kythe on Easter morning. The Monks of St. Benedict Abbey in Atchison, Kansas, moved their retreat for Benedictine College students online and hoped 100 people might participate. Three thousand joined, from six continents, in part thanks to Aleteia.
Like many others around the nation, the Ascension Press Bible study my son and I were attending had to disband. But instead, Jeff Cavins offered a free online version that reached far more than the parish groups were reaching.
That kind of thing is happening over and over: We miss going to Mass and will return the second we can, but we have gotten remarkable homilies from Bishop Robert Barron and Father Michael Schmitz instead. The fact that this coincided with Holy Week meant that my children have heard — and have been pondering and discussing — the fundamental mysteries of the faith from the foremost preachers of our time. What fruits will this bear over their lifetimes?
Anxiety, fear, and strife are unfortunately part of the pandemic experience. But so is love.
At Benedictine College, we noticed early on that our students were responding to the crisis by finding imaginative and energetic ways to reach out to others.
One student started an organization to run errands for at-risk groups. Others found ways to help local homebound kids learn. Nurses educated in our Mother Teresa Nursing Center followed their patroness’s example, risking themselves for others. We began to collect their stories of hope, and more, under the hashtag #RavensWillRise.
Just as the stories of first responders rushing into burning buildings to save others became the enduring narrative of the 9/11 terror attacks, stories of medical professionals, truckers, and community volunteers are becoming the enduring story of the pandemic.
“If not for the pandemic …”
Father Jay Kythe gave a remarkable testimony at that Abbey retreat. The pandemic terrified and upset him at first, he said. But now, he found he could say, “Even though times are difficult, people are dying, and there is sickness and grief, God is up to something.”
“If it were not for the pandemic, we would not have had this retreat. If not for the pandemic, we would not have connected so well with so many of you,” he said. “If not for the pandemic, well, fill in the blank for yourself …” he said.
So I did.
If not for the pandemic, my two-coasts-plus-Kansas family wouldn’t be spending so much time together by Zoom.
If not for the pandemic, one friend’s children would never have seen Jesus Christ visit their very own street in their pastor’s Eucharistic procession.
If not for the pandemic, another friend wouldn’t have introduced her children to silent prayer daily together in the chapel.
If not for the pandemic, many of us would never have gotten distraction-free time with our families the way we have.
If I could skip the pandemic I would — in a heartbeat. But God allowed it, and he is up to something.
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