I’m writing in Lent, and it seems to me that the Coronavirus highlights certain themes that are important in Lent. It reminds us that we are vulnerable to evil, and that evil can be around us and within us, even when we are unaware of it. It reminds us how powerless we are; how quickly lifestyles and jobs can pass away, how quickly supermarkets and the NHS can come under extraordinary pressure. It reminds us of our need of God. It reminds us of our mortality.
As we try to make sense of the Coronavirus, I think it is helpful to think about the providence of God. God’s providence is the mysterious way in which God brings about his purposes of Love, making use even of the things that work against God, the things we would call Evil. We say, “God moves in mysterious ways!”, but if we want to understand these things better we need to see them from God’s perspective. A radical change of perspective is required!
First of all, God looks on his creation with love. The things that God creates are good (Gen 1: 31) and God wants good outcomes for all his creatures. We quickly lose this perspective when we fall into hatred of people or situations.
Secondly, God’s purposes have a heavenly and earthly aspect to them. To understand the full purposes of God we need to look beyond the material world, beyond death even. Most of us are not mystics and we can’t actually do that. We have to accept the limitations of our knowledge.
Thirdly, God is not afraid of suffering. Indeed, suffering appears to have an important role in bringing good out of evil. The crucifixion of Jesus is the prime example, but we are all called to walk the way of the cross (e.g. Matt 16: 21ff). We find it very hard to accept suffering, and that limits our perspective.
Fourthly, God’s perspective is a universal perspective concerned with the good of all. To gain this perspective we have to take on board our neighbours concerns alongside our own. I have been encouraged reading the stories of people helping neighbours, shopping for the elderly and telephoning the isolated.
Sadly, I don’t think the Coronavirus is simply a Lenten trial that will all be over Easter (12th April). But’s let’s try to see the situation from God’s perspective, the perspective of Love. Let’s accept our limitations and be ready to walk the way of the cross. Let’s take care of the people around us. Coronavirus may not go away, but we will find signs of hope and resurrection.
With prayers and best wishes for Easter, Fr Patrick
Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. from the CofE website