God, where are you?

When is today? Same day as yesterday…and the day before that, right? Nowadays it’s hard telling days apart. Even before this distressing pandemic befell us, when staying home wasn’t the new ‘normal’, I could tell Monday from Friday, because at the least, I had Sundays to break the monotony. Now that is not possible as well because churches have been banned as a way of curbing the spread of COVID-19.

In all my life, I have never experienced so much uncertainty as I am now. Each day passes by with every moment angst-filled. Once upon a time, watching TV was fun…but nowadays, there are the incessant live updates about the state of COVID. Nothing’s normal anymore…

I miss going out and not having to worry about touching things because they could be contaminated, or getting close to people…I miss walking into several stores in a day, and not having to rub different sanitizers on my hands before getting in each store…I miss walking outside, inhaling the fresh air, without the irritating inhibition of face masks…I miss walking into a mall, without being subjected to ‘hospital-like’ protocols, such as screening before going about with my business.

I miss waking up to the cheerful sound of children playing outside…I miss seeing jolly neighbours laughing at a barbecue, clinking bottles of beer on a warm Sunday afternoon…I miss hearing the occasional happy birthday songs when my neighbours’ kids are all gathered in one of their friend’s house cutting cake…or seeing them jumping on a bouncing castle… I miss…[sigh]… I miss…many things…I miss normal!

I miss going about with my normal routine, and not having to constantly worry about the people close to me, who I cannot see every day; because Corona is like an armoured thief lurking in the dead of night, waiting to creep in when someone’s guard is down. It’s like being in the battlefield, and knowing any bullet fired could be the ‘one’…

I miss days when one could just cough or sneeze freely, without fear of being suspected of having corona. I miss days when COVID-19 updates were not the main focus on TV. It’s even more disturbing, thinking all those numbers denote actual lives… It feels like we’re in a twilight zone…

Million dollar question is, when this invisible monster is ravaging the world at a terrifyingly callous rate, where is God? Of the things I have learnt to appreciate during this imposed ‘quarantine’ period, is the fact that I can ‘travel’ to the Vatican any day I want and attend mass, celebrated by His Holiness, the Pope.

One of the memorable masses is Good Friday’s mass, where the homily was given by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa. He said something that answered that million dollar question, which I believe so many people around the globe are asking, “God, where are you? If you’re real, why have you let this monster run loose?”

Fr. Cantalamessa said, “The pandemic of coronavirus has abruptly roused us from the greatest danger individuals and humanity have always been susceptible to: the delusion of omnipotence. A Jewish rabbi has written that we have the opportunity to celebrate a very special paschal exodus this year, that “from the exile of consciousness”. It took merely the smallest and most formless element of nature, a virus, to remind us that we are mortal, that military power and technology are not sufficient to save us…

While he was painting frescoes in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the artist James Thornhill became so excited at a certain point about his fresco that he stepped back to see it better and was unaware he was about to fall over the edge of the scaffolding. A horrified assistant understood that crying out to him would only have hastened the disaster. Without thinking twice, he dipped a brush in paint and hurled it at the middle of the fresco.

The master, appalled, sprang forward. His work was damaged, but he was saved. God does this with us sometimes: He disrupts our projects and our calm to save us from the abyss we don’t see. But we need to be careful not to be deceived. God is the not the one who hurled the brush at the sparkling fresco of our technological society. God is our ally, not the ally of the virus!

He Himself says in the Bible, “I have…plans for your welfare and not for woe” (Jer 29:11). If these scourges were punishments of God, it would not be explained why they strike equally good and bad, and why the poor usually bring the worst consequences of them. Are they more sinners than others? No!

The one who cried one day for Lazarus’ death cries today for the scourge that has fallen on humanity. Yes, God “suffers”, like every father and like every mother. When we will find out this one day, we will be ashamed of all accusations we made against Him in life.

God participates in our pain to overcome it. “Being supremely good”, wrote St. Augustine, God will not allow any evil in His works, unless in His omnipotence and goodness, he is able to bring forth good out of evil”’’.

The homily was relatively long, but in a nutshell, Fr. Cantalamessa assured listeners, that God does not bring about disasters. You know that concept of free will given to man by God? Nature was given that freedom to evolve as well. This is because when God created the world, He did not intend things to just function mechanically, in a manner that would be so predictable.

I know these words won’t do much to calm all the anguished hearts, but I pray, they will bring some slight comfort to all those who are afflicted and grieving over the loss of loved ones. This is not easy, but we will triumph over it, the same way Jesus triumphed over death. God is with us.

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