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Feb 02, 2021 199 Father Joseph Gill,
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Q&A

Question: This virus crisis has made me realize how short my life is, and now I am beginning to worry—to worry about getting sick, and to fear death. How can I be at peace when I never know if I will get sick from the coronavirus?

Answer: Every news outlet has been covering the coronavirus epidemic with regularity. It is hard to avoid the news of this disease—it is literally everywhere. Even the Church has had to get involved—the entire country closed public Masses for several months earlier this year. I have even seen a church with blessed hand sanitizer in the Holy Water fonts!

Caution is one thing, but panic is quite another. I think many people (and institutions!) have slipped into a panic-mode that is neither realistic, nor helpful at a time like this. Here are three things to remember as we all seek to stay healthy during this virus:

First, do not be afraid. This is one of the most often-repeated sayings in the Bible. In fact, it is said that the phrase “Do not be afraid” appears 365 times in the Bible—one for each day of the year, because we need to hear it every day.

Why should we not be afraid? Because God is in control. In our rationalistic, sciencebased culture, we tend to forget this—we think that the destiny of the human race is in our hands. On the contrary—God is in control, and His will always prevails. If it is His will that we contract this disease, we must surrender our will to His. Yes, take precautionary measures, but in our hearts we must not forget that our lives are in His hands. He is a good Father Who does not abandon His children, but orchestrates everything for our good. Yes, “all things work for good for those who love God”—all things includes coronavirus.

Second, as a Christian we must reckon with the fact that all of us will die. It says in Scripture (Romans 14:8) that “if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” We sometimes think that we can avoid death forever, but we cannot. Our lives are not ours to own and cling to – they have been given to us by the Lord, on loan, and we will have to return them to Jesus one way or another. What peace there is when we recognize that we will someday return these gifts back to the Father!

As the Christian writer John Eldridge once said, “The most powerful man on earth is the one who has reckoned with his own death.” In other words, if you do not fear death, then you are unstoppable. In the same way, once Christians accept the fact that their lives are not their own, that we will have to come to God one way or another, this liberates us from the need to fear death. It frees us from our frantic grasping at life, as if this physical life were the most important thing to protect and preserve. Yes, life is a gift, and we should go to great lengths to protect it. But the gift of life is not absolute—we must all give that gift back to the Lord at some point. Whether it is coronavirus or cancer, a car wreck or old age, we all must die. Christians keep their gaze fixed on eternity, where life will never end.

Finally, we must remember our duties to the sick. We have a duty not to abandon the sick—even if they are contagious. As Saint Charles Borromeo said during the plague of 1576, “Be ready to abandon this mortal life rather than the people committed to your care.” Recently, we celebrated the memorial of Saint Frances of Rome, who lived in the early 1440s during a time of great societal upheaval. She dedicated her life to the sick. Listen to the words of a contemporary of hers:

Many different diseases were rampant in Rome. Fatal diseases and plagues were everywhere, but the saint ignored the risk of contagion and displayed the deepest kindness toward the poor and needy. She would seek them out in their cottages and in public hospitals, and would refresh their thirst, smooth their beds, and bind their sores. The more disgusting and sickening the stench, the greater was the love and care with which she treated them. For thirty years Frances continued this service to the sick and the stranger… (“Life of Saint Frances of Rome” by Sr. Mary Magdalene Anguillaria).

We, too, ought to seek ways to take care of victims of this disease. Do not abandon those who have come down with it! It is our Christian duty, one of the Corporal Works of Mercy. Take precautions, of course, but if we happen to catch the virus from someone infected because we are serving them, it is a form of white martyrdom, love-in-action.

And finally, let us remind ourselves that all of this is in God’s hands. If it is His will that we stay healthy, we shall praise Him for it. If it is His will that we get sick, then we shall suffer well for Him. And if it is His will that we die from this virus, we commit our lives into His Hands.

So, yes, take caution, stay home if you are sick (you are not committing a sin if you miss Mass due to illness!), wash your hands and try to stay healthy. And leave the rest to God.

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Father Joseph Gill

©Father Joseph Gill is a high school chaplain and serves in parish ministry. He is a graduate from Franciscan University of Steubenville and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. Father Gill has published several albums of Christian rock music (available on iTunes). His debut novel, “Days of Grace” is available on amazon.com.

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