We are living in a time that will certainly make the history books. It is a time of chaos and fear. Over 14,000 have died at the time of writing this and over 300,000 in the world are suffering with the disease. People are confined to their homes, cut off from their communities. Many have lost their jobs, and public worship services have been suspended. There are so many reasons to be despondent, and I have certainly felt moments of despair myself.
And yet, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us: Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. How can we be thankful in this time? There is certainly much to lament, but I can think of 5 reasons to be grateful in our current situation.
1. A lesson in humility. As a society, we have gotten very used to being in control of our lives. We can get 2-hour shipping on groceries delivered right to our door. We can decide which streaming service we want. We can tell our Alexa to turn on the lights and answer our kid's homework questions. It is empowering to be able to get what we want, how and when we want it, and easy to forget about God in times of abundance. But then along comes a pandemic and we remember that actually we do not have the power we thought we did. Only God could have seen this specific pandemic coming and only He knows how and when it is going to end. The lack of control is an antidote for our pride and self-sufficiency.
2. Deeper prayer lives. I can tell you that I have spent far more time in prayer than I normally do. I have felt an overwhelming desire to run to God and storm Heaven with my frequent, and deep prayers. And I know that I am not alone. I have talked to many people who are saying regular rosaries for the first time in their lives. People who have never gone to daily mass are streaming the sacrament online. Nothing drives us closer to God like chaos does, and that is certainly true now.
3. An abundance of Evangelism. We are all living on social media now and I have never seen so many posts and conversations about God. Friends are promoting the live-streamed mass from their parish, they are sharing prayers and posting encouraging scripture. I historically have been one to keep my religious thoughts to my blog or to Catholic group pages. But now, I find myself more willing to post about God on my regular profile for everyone to see, whether they are coworkers, old college-mates, or new friends. These are excellent opportunities for evangelism as we never know when we might be planting a seed for someone we would have otherwise never witnessed to.
4. Appreciation for community. Our culture has become increasingly isolated as we have become more apt to stay at home and rely solely on digital "friendships". Gen Z has been said to be the "loneliest generation" in America, followed closely by the Millennials. But now that we have been forcefully cut off from our social lives, people everywhere are starting to fully grasp that social media and digital "friends" are no replacement for actual, physical community. God calls us to come together in community as a Church, and Jesus commands us to love your neighbor as yourself. This is hard to do if we are never around anyone else. We are meant to be with others, and now hopefully we are remembering that.
5. Gratefulness for the Eucharist. During this time, we are able to participate in Spiritual Communion, especially thanks to the gift of technology. But we have been cut off from receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and it leaves a hole in our hearts that nothing else can fill. How many times have we wished mass would hurry up and end so we could get about our day? How many times have we taken the sacrament for granted? They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and now the Church, the Bride of Christ, is lamenting the physical separation from her Spouse, Jesus. This separation has opened our eyes to the amazing blessing and gift we have been able to receive at mass. I pray that we will never take it for granted again!
Like everyone around me, I am praying hard for this pandemic to pass and for life to return to "normal". It has been a very difficult road so far, and I know that there are many who are suffering far more than I am. But God is present in every circumstance. And a careful examination of our situation can perhaps reveal some goodness that brings meaning to our suffering.