The outbreak of COVID-19, with its pernicious effects leading to changes in habit and attitudes of people, is today being counterbalanced by societal holistic mobilization of resources for its defeat. To defeat this invisible enemy that has routed and destabilised the world, humans are displaying the potency of their will, which trumps all challenges. Humanity struggles to fan the ember of hope beneath the ashes of this pandemic. While those to whom God is foreign see in the COVID-19 crisis a defeat of religion, it is worth iterating that the sacred cannot be eclipsed. Attempts to delete the supernatural always manifest as the eclipse of reason. If anything, this crisis might initiate a funeral of the magical and consumerist use of religion while enhancing its proper expression. Furthermore, it will renew it as a path to the transcendence, and launch a rediscovery of humanity and Christianity.
Tellingly, neither science nor religion has all the answers about the existential challenges. Their ability to respect areas of competencies and acknowledge nescience when necessary promotes harmony between religion and science. Unfortunately, while scientists with the help of the Holy Spirit the kinetic presence and creative power of God labour to develop vaccines against this invisible enemy, many so-called spiritual specialists, who count themselves as members of God’s advisory council, surfaced. They forget entirely that religious specialism is antithetical to genuine and authentic faith in God, which always stands in gratitude to Him. These ‘self-appointed specialists’ bombard the world with contradictory messages, claiming in their arrogance to be oracles of God. They arrogate to themselves authority they never had. And with reckless disregard for the second commandment (cf. Exodus 20:7), they spread half-truths and falsehoods in the name of the Lord.
In fact, it is obvious that through this pandemic, the devil struggles to steal our focus by distracting us from the essential matters and by selling fears. Consequently, many are not able to see through the crisis a resetting of the world leading to conversion. Notwithstanding humanity’s exclusion of God from the public sphere, this crisis provides an opportunity for a return to Him. It invites the world to hope in the Lord: “for with the Lord, there is mercy and fullness of redemption” (Psalm 130:7). Under the guiding and leading role of the Church, the world lives this crisis, knowing that the Lord does not abandon His own (cf. Is. 49:15). Indeed, if He should mark our iniquities, nobody will be spared (cf. Psalm 130:3-4). On her part, the world should not remain in evil and rebellion that grace may abound (cf. Rom. 6:1). This crisis comes with an experience which can facilitate a resurrection effect in the world if through this paschal suffering she learns to shed off personal, social and ecological sins. In doing so, the world’s inability to gain salvation by itself stands out as a lesson that stares the world in the eyes during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Salvation is always received and not made. Healing comes from the Lord, from whom we receive it with posture of gratefulness. We do not heal ourselves. Many of those who run the affairs of the world have been in delusion equating salvation with progress. They wrongly under the Hegelian idea of history portray salvation as something achievable through material historical development. As a result, the world worships at the altar of techno-scientific progress while casting aside any idea of transcendence. By so doing, man’s confidence in his ability is closed-in to such an extent that his self-assurance is an affront to God. In his self-enthronement, man forgets God and pursues progress. And while subjecting reality to the rubrics of productivity, power and pleasure, and glowing in her self-delusion, suddenly, COVID-19! Faced with the stark reality of human fragility, our return to God with a sincere heart includes no other alternative.
Within the province of the new circumstance, deference to God’s transcendent sovereignty in creation and human fraternal solidarity becomes the only path to recovery and renewal. The Scripture and human experience are replete with enormous evidence that God, who created us without us, saves us with our co-operation. It is therefore not surprising that through the universal solidarity stemming from our ontological brotherhood, the world is employing both religion and science in response to the crisis. Solidarity has a way of enriching all sides, both the initiator and the respondent. Such solidarity, which transcends artificial divisions and classifications for the wellbeing of all, learns to exchange resources and competencies. In response to the challenge of COVID-19, nothing explains or excuses a refusal to transcend various idioms by communicating universality.
The resurrection entails communication of idioms that point to the unity of all. COVID-19 pandemic indicts the world of her self-referential forfeiture of universal solidarity in the dirty geo-politics defined by power struggle and unrestrained exploitation of resources for national or personal ego. In a delicate and intricate co-existence of living beings, the world survives in grateful doxology and solidarity. This solidarity at the global scale learns anew to take everything as a grant. In so doing, the ethos of gift leads the world to appreciate our inter-connectedness and inter-dependence through an economy of sharing. With the ethos of solidarity, the virtue of love of neighbour leads the world to a new culture of altruism that is both real and transformative.
Hence, with the newly recovered economy of grace, the world reverses her principle of diminishing gratitude, of which COVID-19 crisis is a consequence. Our failure to take things as gratuitous made us victims of the ramification of diminishing gratitude. It exposed the transitory and contingent nature of material glories. This crisis invites us to a renewed appreciation of our human kinship, and abandonment to the open embrace of the Father’s welcome. Without our awareness of the truth and meaning of the Lord’s radical presence in our midst through his Incarnation, we will miss out on the valuable lesson of solidarity necessary for human existence. Drawing from the Lord’s personal experience of solidarity with humanity, which comes to a perfect definition in the resurrection, we learn to live our Easter as a gift of sacrifices that renew our world.
Through the Easter solidarity, the cosmic significance of the resurrection of Christ, which opens us to a new life in God, becomes a renewal of the relationships within the complexities of life. The appalling sum of humanity’s gloom encounters a glowing experience of resurrection if she learns her lesson. Only in such awareness can we appreciate the opportunity for a real resurrection experience offered by this crisis. It is hoped that the COVID-19 crisis may launch a turning point of the world back to the essentials of life, namely God, family and fellow-caring. Through the good, the bad and the ugly experience of COVID-19, we appreciate the measure of our peace and happiness in the measure of our availability to God and others. Thus, we are enabled to invest our energies, time and resources measurably to meaningful things. Hopefully, through this pandemic there will be a transformation. And we can proudly say that after COVID-19 gloom there will be a resurrection experience. There shines very brightly the light of hope and life at the end of this long and dark night of fear and frustration.
• Fr. George Adimike is of the Archdiocese of Onitsha ([email protected] gmail.com).