Editor’s note: This reflection about finding hope in the COVID-19 pandemic was originally published in April 2020. We have republished it on March 11, 2022, the second anniversary of the WHO declaring COVID-19 a pandemic.
Dear brothers and sisters, God is good!
Recently we received a letter from our Minister General requesting prayers for some of our friars who had contracted the deadly coronavirus. This is when the reality of this COVID-19 pandemic hit home, when I knew that my loved ones had been directly affected.
Indeed, no one can argue the impact of the coronavirus is something that we have experienced before. An invisible enemy, deadly, and unaware of borders. The world is for sure experiencing a pandemic that is oblivious to many of the things we humans hold dear to us: family, culture, economy, borders, and political systems.
Within weeks, despite all efforts, the coronavirus has encircled the globe. We are confronted once more with the fragility of our lives, and again we are reminded of our common humanity and our common creaturehood under one God (St. Francis of Assisi), what Pope Francis calls in Laudato Si’, integral ecology. Thus, we are interrelated, interconnected, and interdependent.
What happens in the Americas is felt in Africa, what happens in Asia is felt in Europe, and the like. This indicates to us that the people of this world are our brothers and sisters, that we are all one family under God.
What happens to some of us will ultimately have impact on all of us. Our world today desperately needs God’s intervention and an integral solution that encompasses the whole creation.
Indeed, we must examine our consciences, return back to God, and hold onto each other with love. The question we all ask ourselves, “Why us? Why now? Where is God?”
What is the best and sure way to love, peace, happiness, and abundant life? The prophet Hosea addressed this question with his religious community, the people of Israel. Hosea’s people lived in a time of economic anxiety and fear among nations.
They were tempted to put their security in their own possessions and in their political alliances with other nations rather than in God. Hosea called his people to return to God to receive pardon, healing, and restoration.
He reminded them that God would “heal their faithlessness and love them freely” (Hosea 14:4). God’s ways are right and his wisdom brings strength and blessing to those who obey him.
In the Gospel, despite all the sufferings and difficulties, we must always run to God, because he is love.
What does God require of us? Simply that we love as God loves! God is love, and everything our Creator does flows from love for us (1 John 4:7-21). The love of God comes first and the love of neighbor is firmly grounded in the love of God. (Mark 12:30-31). Faith in God and hope in God’s promises strengthen us in the love of God and care for our neighbor.
God does not abandon us; God goes with us, even now in this time of trial and testing. In this moment, it is important for us to anchor our hearts in the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Now is the time to intensify our prayers and sacrifices for the love of God and the love of our neighbor.
Jesus experienced the full measure of human suffering. The Lord suffered and died for us and for our salvation, and, no matter what befalls us, be it sickness or tribulations, our hope in Jesus’ love will not disappoint us.
We will find the grace to join our sufferings to Jesus’, and as we do so, we will come to realize something of the depth and beauty of God’s love for us.
Growth in holiness doesn’t happen only when times are relatively calm and peaceful; often, we grow in God’s likeness when we are called to love in extraordinary ways, as surely we are being challenged to do in these days.
As followers of Christ and members of one community, the body of Christ, to maintain our spiritual health in the midst of this crisis, we should continue to love and pursue our life of prayer in order to nourish our faith and maintain hope.
Let us have some time for personal prayer. It is important for us to pour our hearts in prayer and supplication.
United with our Holy Father Pope Francis, let us pray in solidarity for our brothers and sisters here and around the world who are sick. We should pray for those who are currently struggling with the virus, those living in fear and anxiety, those in isolation, the suffering, and the dead.
While we pray for our families and our loved ones, let us pray earnestly for researchers and health care givers, and for those who must make difficult public decisions in this time of crisis.
Let us not forget the poor, the needy, and the vulnerable, especially those who do not have access to adequate health care. When we confide our needs to the Lord in heartfelt and sincere prayer, we grow in our trust of the provident love of God.