Religion Column — The Covid-19 Christian
By Fr. Jonathan Filkins
Unless we have lived under a rock for the past several months, few of us have not been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. With the ebb and flow of the variously-interpreted restrictions, we have gone from full lockdown to restricted mobilities. Recent trends indicate an alarming return to the earlier days, with the potential for onerous strictures to be put back in place.
We, here in Picayune, have been graciously spared much of the angst and much of the grief during this time. It is somewhat akin to hearing a thunderstorm afar off, where we hear the rumbles, see the lightning, yet the threat seems to be afar off. Perhaps our proclivity to “stay close to home” has negated some of the risks associated with larger, or more intrinsically mobile populations.
Of course, our political viewpoints must be also taken into consideration. Whether we hold to some conspiracy theory, or not, the sad realities are the containment strategies extant. Overseas travel is prohibited, and even our travel within the United States requires knowledge of the individual state’s mandates. We, as a people, are quite tired of the strictures placed upon us and yearn for something else other than what has been called “the new normal.”
We also yearn for a return to the full fellowship of worship within the Church structures. With social distancing and everyone looking like a masked train robber, and speaking in muddled tones, sans singing, the effect on the devout may be profound. Additionally, “Mass on the Grass,” and interaction with a computer screen are hardly replacements. So, we wait for better days.
However, in all of the posturing, in all of the paranoia, there remains one constant. Let us remember the path to salvation, and eternity with God is through Jesus Christ. Let us also remember the suffering of Christ in his ministry and his passion. These are meant, for us, to show us the pains and sufferings for us all in this world; regardless of our age, or time.
In the first letter of Saint Peter, he relates, “For even hereunto were you called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow in his steps.” If we believe, and we should, that everything comes from God, the days of Covid-19 are part of that creation. As God chose to slay Pharaoh’s son, along with the many other plagues, as found in the Old Testament, so too are we faced with our own. As Herod the Great, in the time of Christ, slew the Innocents, for this too was coming from God.
It is frequently difficult, if not impossible, to separate our emotions from our understanding. Today, we know about the reasons for the loss of Pharaoh’s son and the Innocents. Understanding God’s will appear to be far more difficult, when the closer the events occur to our own times. Only now are we beginning to get a grasp upon the physical reasons for the Black Plague; where 25 percent of the population was, literally, carted off. Now, we have our own plague and, in spite of our hubris may, grudgingly, recognize that we most certainly are not in control.
Saint Peter continues, “For you were as sheep going astray; but now are returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” This is as much a prayer as a statement, for it portends and glorifies those who have returned to Christ, but also for those who remain out of the sheepfold.
It is the quandary which faces us today. It is easy to blame God for all of our ills, and the ills of others. In our anger and confusion, we may forget upon which side of the gate we reside. Yes, we frequently do not understand God’s actions. We know the Covid-19 pandemic will run its course, as we know a vaccine is in the offing. Then is the response one of thanksgiving to God for the end and cure, or will it be one of secular celebrations, shouting “Look at what we did?”
And, herein lays the eternal “rub.”