I’m writing from the desk in my bedroom. It’s my last semester of college, but, instead of sitting in my apartment on campus, I’m at my parents’ house. I moved out of college a few weeks ago and will be finishing the remainder of my classes online — most everyone has left campus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Being at home certainly isn’t how I envisioned ending my last year of college. I miss my friends. I have trouble motivating myself to do my school work. And I find myself in a state of uncertainty where it seems that no one really knows what’s coming next. Usually, when I feel lost like this, I’d try to make some plans into the future to guarantee myself at least a little bit of security. But I can’t even do that because I’m not sure what next month or this summer will look like. So, here I sit, trying to be at least a little productive and wondering what will come next. Maybe you’re in a similar situation.
I have no authority to tell you any important medical information about the outbreak and spread of COVID-19, so I won’t. But, I do wonder how this unprecedented episode of a pandemic might affect the way we live out the Christian life. It made for a good meme to say that “we all gave up seeing each other for Lent,” but what happens when Lent passes and the Church asks us to rejoice during Easter? How might we feel watching the Easter Vigil Mass on our laptop screens?
I can’t help but think that the sort of uncertainty we feel now is probably similar to that uncertainty the apostles felt during Christ’s Passion. On Good Friday, they watched Jesus suffer and die. The same man who had performed powerful healing miracles and had spoken of Himself as the Resurrection hung dead on the cross, just like any other convicted criminal. The plans the disciples had for the future had been uprooted by the death of their leader, and in their imperfect following of the Lord, they seem to have forgotten about Christ’s promise to come back to them. They likely felt lost and directionless, even abandoned. Do we feel the same way in the midst of a pandemic?
Before Christ goes off to His Passion, He makes the disciples a promise. “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you” (John 14:18). I wonder as they watched Him die on the cross, did the apostles think that Jesus had lied to them? It certainly seemed that He had left them desolate, and instead of coming to them He seemed to be going far away. That promise Christ made to his disciples echoes unto us, but we might, like the disciples, feel that Jesus has left us desolate. If I can’t even go to Mass, why should I believe that Jesus will come to me?
We call the Friday before Easter Good Friday, but, when we read the account of Jesus’s death, it can seem like the event that we commemorate is actually pretty bad. Is it good that Jesus seems to leave behind all of His followers and to pass on into the next life without them? What’s so good about Good Friday, especially this Good Friday during a global pandemic?
God is good. In fact, He’s goodness itself. Does that sound like a cop-out vacation Bible school sort of answer? Maybe. But I think it’s the central truth of our Christian faith. God is good no matter what happens around us, and we are to worship Him regardless of our situation. We don’t go to Mass to “get something out of it.” We go because God is so good that it would be wrong not to worship Him. And Good Friday isn’t called good because everyone gets what he wants and then rides off into the sunset. Good Friday is good because it accomplishes the perfect will of God. God sent Christ to earth knowing that He would suffer and die–the Old Testament prophets knew of the Passion too. So the goodness of this Friday is due to God alone, not to any particularly happy situation.
Is the COVID-19 pandemic the will of God? No — God doesn’t deal in death. But, because we live in a fallen world with natural laws, natural evils like this pandemic do occur. God permits these evils not because He wants to or needs to, but simply because they’re a part of the world that was created and has fallen and is waiting to be redeemed. God is infinitely good no matter what happens, and even in the midst of natural evils like the COVID-19 pandemic, He is able to bring forth good. That means that Good Friday is still good even if there’s a global pandemic. In fact, Good Friday was good even when Jesus died in front of all His disciples. That doesn’t mean that the struggles of the disciples in the Gospel or the struggles that we face now don’t matter. They matter a lot, and both the Gospel situation and our situation are serious. But, we can still have hope, because God is still good — He still is bringing life from death.
As we move through Holy Week in a way the Church never has before and might never again, I pray that our hope will rest in God alone. If we hope only in the goodness of situations or the favorable outcomes that might befall us, I think we’ll always be disappointed. But if we hope in God and His infinite goodness, we will never be let down. God is good even in a pandemic. Let us worship Him to the best of our abilities, for He deserves nothing less.