Letters from a Pastor to His People- June 14, 2020
Boy oh boy. I think we all can really appreciate this year's Feast of Corpus Christi more than ever.
We celebrate in a particular way today the importance of the Eucharist, the Mass, our Lord's Body and Blood. For several months, as you don't need me to remind you, you all were unable to receive Communion! And, as of writing this letter and submitting it in advance for the bulletin publishing deadline, I'm not even sure if you'll be able to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus today. It'd be like not being able to have a tree, give gifts, and recognize the baby Jesus on Christmas...times ten.
Like last week, let me muse on the first reading. Moses tells the people, in a homily basically, that God made them wander in the desert for forty years to test them. He then says something very interesting, and very applicable to us right now: "He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD" (Deuteronomy 8:3).
First, a disclaimer. I don't necessarily believe COVID-19 is the exact same reality as the Israelites in the desert. God actively willed that the Israelites be in the desert and that they starve so that he could feed them with manna. I'm not making the argument God did this to us to test us and that he is actively behind us not being able to go to Mass for several months because of the shelter-in-place mandate. You can believe that yourself, which is fine, but that isn't the point I'm going to make.
The point is that God brings grace out of suffering or evil. COVID-19 is a disease that has killed people. I've witnessed first-hand, in anointing COVID patients, not only peoples' own physical suffering, but also their emotional and spiritual suffering, as they are unable to be visited, in most cases, by their families in the hospital and are unable, when they do die, to have normal funerals, farewells, and celebrations of life. This is evil, and God did not cause it, just like he does not cause cancer or a tornado that takes innocent lives.
Likewise, not being able to worship in church and celebrate Mass publicly is a deep pain. I don't think God from Heaven just decided in March 2020, "okay, let's stop Mass for some time." Didn't Jesus say, "Do this in remembrance of me?"
These things have happened, nonetheless, and theologically speaking, we would say God permitted them. And then he has gone and done something good with the evil. He has brought grace out of COVID-19.
When the Israelites starved in the desert and experienced the physical pain of hunger—an evil—they had a greater appreciation for the manna God provided. Their hearts and minds were formed to see that God is a loving Father who will provide for them. That is the grace that came forth from that experience in the desert.
So too with us here five thousand years after Moses. We've been in a desert for several months. We haven't been able to receive Communion. Perhaps our appreciation for the Eucharist, thus, has grown? Perhaps our desire for the Lord's Body and Blood has increased? If so, then thanks be to God. That's a huge grace.
And, by the way, then COVID-19 was more effective and impactful than any sermon or bulletin letter I ever could have composed!
Yours in Christ,