It has now been over a month since public Masses were suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic and, here in Illinois, it may be another month or more until most of us can once again receive the Sacraments.
While it may have been easier to “offer it up” for Lent, now that we’re a few weeks into Easter, this deprivation of Mass is becoming more and more difficult to endure for many Catholics. After all, isn’t this supposed to be a season of joy in Christ’s Resurrection? At the beginning of this crisis in March, many of us probably imagined a glorious return to Church on Easter Sunday. As Christ rose from the dead, so too would we rise from this figurative death.
But that didn’t happen.
On the contrary, there’s no end in sight. Even when the churches do reopen, social distancing rules will make everything feel different.
So what are we to think? One thing God never wants is for us to despair—in fact, it’s a sin. We need to have faith and hope that God is bigger than this pandemic and that He won’t allow the doors of His Church to be closed much longer.
In the meantime, there are actually several reasons why we as Catholics can be thankful for what is happening. Not thankful for the virus, but thankful for the opportunities it creates for us to deepen our faith. Remember, God has an infinite capacity to transform suffering into a blessing. It’s all about how we choose to look at it. The following are five ways to view this pandemic that can make our time away worthwhile.
1. An Opportunity to Improve Our Prayer Life
How are you spending this time? Are you viewing the canceled Masses as an extra hour of sleep on Sundays, or are you doing everything possible to enrich your faith life?
Sports and activities are canceled, restaurants are closed, and you can barely travel anywhere. On the flip side, opportunities for prayer have never been more available. Many churches are live-streaming weekday and weekend Masses. Some are also streaming Holy Hours, prayer services, Rosaries, and other faith events. Now, more than perhaps ever, you have the time and capability to grow closer to God. You don’t even have to get in the car. Church is just a few mouse clicks away.
So, if you never attended weekday Mass before, watch it on YouTube whenever you want. If you never had time for the Rosary, pray it during the time you’d normally be commuting to work. Some Catholics will come out of this crisis with their faith eroded. Others will have the strongest faith of their lives. Which will you be?
2. A Chance to Develop a Greater Appreciation for the Eucharist
Many Catholics get stuck in the routine of Mass and forget why they go. Like anything else, it’s easy to become numb or indifferent to something after repeated use.
Now, after weeks of not being able to attend Mass, hopefully absence is making the heart grow fonder for many of us. Hopefully, we’re starting to miss and appreciate the whole reason we go to Mass—to receive Christ in the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is not just a symbol for Christ’s Body and Blood. It is Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Maybe you’ve noticed something feels off after not receiving it for this long. That’s because something is off. Our spirits are not being nourished. An Act of Spiritual Communion can help, but it cannot replace the physical Sacrament of the Eucharist. Use this time to grow hungry for receiving Christ again. Starve for Him, and you’ll never want to go hungry again when the Churches reopen.
3. A Reminder that We Are Made for More
Seeing all the death caused by this pandemic makes us realize how mortal we are—how vulnerable we are to illness and death. Certainly, it’s one of the most depressing parts of this crisis. When day-to-day life stops and we see people dying, we’re faced with the impending reality of our own mortality.
But that is a great reminder of our belief in the Resurrection. We believe that we’re just passing through this life, preparing for our final home with God. When we realize that our goal isn’t this life but the next one, it can help us reprioritize things and put God and His Commandments first.
4. A Blessing of Family Time
The shutdowns have, in many cases, locked us in our homes with family. As Catholics, we often tout the importance of home and family life, but during normal times it sometimes seems hard just to get everybody together at the dinner table once a week.
Now, we can have dinner as a family every night. We can do chores together. Play games together. Most of all, we can pray together. Pray a family Rosary. Watch the Mass. Do a Bible study. The possibilities are endless. This is a unique opportunity to forge good habits for family life that can continue once things “become normal.”
5. The Timing
Lastly, we Catholics can be thankful for the timing of this crisis. Imagine that, instead of 2020, this shutdown happened in 1990. Without the internet and modern communication technology, the pandemic would feel even worse. Not only would more people be laid off due to a lack of work-from-home tools, but there would be no live-streamed Masses or prayers online from your local church.
We can also be thankful that this is happening during the spring and summer when we can still get outside and say some prayers while taking a stroll in the park.
Faith in God’s Plan
Although things may not make sense right now, we need to remember to have faith in God’s plan for us. The pandemic…the shutdown…all of it plays some role in glorifying God. After all, He can turn any situation around to be beneficial for our salvation. Perhaps, the closer we grow to God during this time, the clearer His purpose for us will become.