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(Part 4)

“if you do not repent, you will all perish”
(Luke 13:3)

March 16, 2020

“To all the beloved of God in (the world), called to be holy. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 1:7).

I continue to be dismayed. Yes, by the continuing surge of COVID-19. But more so, by the response of many in our Church. Our bishops are cancelling spiritual events including Masses.[1]Churches are being locked down. Reasons given are the same reasons of secular authorities. But aside from calling on the faithful to pray, our Church leaders are not delving more deeply into the spiritual dimensions of this plague. Is not God trying to tell us something?

What is really going on?

Given that much of the Christian world have gone the way of secularism, given that there is growing apostasy and Christians have turned away from God, given the disintegration of faith, family and life, given that modernism has even entered into our Church, might COVID-19 be part of God’s chastisement? Mind you, given the gravity of the sins of the world, it is still just a relatively minor manifestation of God’s wrath. Perhaps just a reminder. And if the world does not heed the warning, the worst is yet to come.

The Bible says a lot abot God’s wrath and plagues.[2]

  • From the book of Revelation. The seven angels are told to “go and pour out the seven bowls of God’s fury upon the earth.” (Rev 16:1).
  • From the book of Ezekiel. The oracle of God speaks of sending “plague into this land, pouring out upon it my bloody wrath” (Ez 14:19a).
  • From the book of Psalms. The psalmist speaks about Israel’s rebellion against God, for which God “let loose against them the heat of his anger, wrath, fury, …. He cleared a path for his anger; he did not spare them from death, but delivered their animals to the plague.” (Ps 78:49-50).

What greatly angers God? It is the infidelity of His people. It is their rebellion. It is their idolatry. The consequences are dire. “Thus says the Lord God: Clap your hands, stamp your feet,[3] and cry ‘Alas!’ for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel![4] They shall fall by the sword, starvation, and disease.” (Ez 6:11).

What needs to happen?

The people of God need to repent! And turn back to God! “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment” (Acts 3:19-20a). The justice of God requires punishment for sin, but the mercy of God looks to restoration. “For I find no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies­oracle of the Lord God. Turn back and live!” (Ez 18:32).

What is the real tragedy? It is not the physical deaths that are caused by COVID-19. It is the spiritual death that is caused by sin and a continuing lack of repentance. But are we hearing our Church leaders call us to repentance, or just to do precautions for our physical health? Ironically, it is the time of Lent. God is grieved, by our sins certainly, but also by our failure to heed what He is telling us. “I sent upon you pestilence …. yet you did not return to me” (Am 4:10).

Know this: God has “power over these plagues” (Rev 16:9b). God can stop COVID-19 much better than a vaccine.[5] The real tragedy would be if we “did not repent or give him glory.” (Rev 16:9c).

This Lenten season

Our Church has locked down churches and cancelled Masses. That is not the way to go. All the more we as the people of God need to come together, in repentance and in worship of God. The best worship is of course the Holy Eucharist. It is a commemoration of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins. On the cross Jesus shed his precious blood for us, and won for us our salvation.

Remember Passover? The Israelites were told to smear the blood of the slaughtered lamb on the doorposts and lintel of their houses. “But for you the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thereby, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you.” (Ex 12:13).

Where can we be marked by the blood of the Lamb, who is Jesus? At the holy sacrifice of the Mass! May our bishops quickly restore our Eucharistic celebrations. It is a matter of life and death.[6]

In the end

We are in the end times. In the end, “there will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place” (Lk 21:11a). You think this COVID-19 is fearsome? You haven’t seen anything yet. This is just a reminder, a small tap on the wrist.

We must learn the lessons being imparted by God through COVID-19, and respond accordingly. We respond with more intense prayer, with ongoing heartfelt repentance, and with continuing with our work of evangelization and mission. The times are urgent. The work is crucial. People are dying, not just with COVID-19, but in their sins.

God bless and protect you all.

* * *

[1] In very few places in the world, such as in northern Italy, this might be justified.
[2]God’s four evil punishments are the sword, famine, wild beasts and plague (Ez 14:21). In the book of Revelation, when the fourth seal was broken open, Death and Hades “were given authority over a quarter of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and plague, and by means of the beasts of the earth.” (Rev 6:8).
[3] The gestures of clapping hands and stamping feet express grief, even horror.
[4] Christians are the new Israel. God’s covenant is with us. God continues with the appropriate rewards and punishments.
[5] Of course God can also direct human minds to be able to develop a vaccine.
[6] Perhaps the COVID-19 virus will pass over us if we are sealed by the blood of Jesus through the Eucharist.

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