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  • Writer's pictureThe Hermit of Antipolo

Longing and Waiting for God (A Perspective on Covid-19 Part 27)

Today’s psalm: Psalm 42:3-4; 43:3-4

“As the deer longs for streams of water,

so my soul longs for you, O God.”

(Psalm 42:2)

COVID-19 has caused the lockdown of our churches and the cancellation of Masses. Catholics have been cut off from the most important gift and grace from God, that of participating in the Eucharist and receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. We are in lamentation. It is as when the Israelites were far from the temple in Jerusalem and could not worship and experience the divine presence in the temple.

Psalms 42 and 43 form a single lament of three sections. Despite sadness, the psalmist hopes to once again join the worshiping crowds. This is our hope as well.

“My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When can I enter and see the face of God?” (Ps 42:3)

We earnestly desire to once again enter the church and go to Mass. In the church, we see the face of God, that is, we enter into the very living presence of God. While God is indeed everywhere, there is a special presence in the church, with Jesus himself, through the consecrated host, present in the Tabernacle.

Receiving the living Jesus, in the form of bread and wine, is crucial to the well-being of our soul. Just as Holy Communion is our assurance of eternal life, so is the deprivation of Holy Communion the despair of our soul. Without God we die. Without the living water that is Jesus in Holy Communion, we do not really live in the fullness of God’s grace.

“My tears have been my bread day and night” (Ps 42:4a)

We need bread in order to keep alive. We need the living bread, the Bread of Life, to keep our souls alive. Under lockdown, all we have are tears.

“Those times I recall as I pour out my soul, when I would cross over to the shrine of the Mighty One, to the house of God, amid loud shouts of thanksgiving, with the multitude keeping festival.” (Ps 42:5)

COVID-19 is God’s chastisement. Yes, for the great evil in the world. And yes, for the apostasy in our Church. Many Christians have turned away from, abandoned, neglected, betrayed and even mocked God. Many Catholics no longer go to Mass, or do not go every Sunday. Many of those who do go lack the reverence that is due. And so now God allows us to be deprived of Mass and Holy Communion. It is said that you miss something of value only when you lose it. Perhaps the current deprivation will lead us to appreciating the gift to us that is the Eucharist.

And once our churches are opened and Masses are celebrated, let us enter into the house of our God with great anticipation and joy, let us participate in the celebration with thanksgiving, let us be glad in the company of the people of God.

“By day may the Lord send his mercy, and by night may his righteousness be with me! I will pray to the God of my life, I will say to God, my rock: ‘Why do you forget me? Why must I go about mourning with the enemy oppressing me?’” (Ps 42:9-10)

Since COVID-19 is God’s chastisement, then we look to God for mercy. And indeed, our God is a merciful God. But He is also a God of justice. We brought this pandemic upon ourselves by our sins and the grave evil in the world. So we must repent and turn back to God. Then we move on to living lives of righteousness, lives that are pleasing to God.

Jesus is the Rock upon which we build our house, which stands in the face of buffeting by winds and floods. But that happens only if we listen to Jesus and act on his ways. In our lament we might ask God why He has forgotten us. But God never forgets us. God wants only our good. God wants to give us a future full of hope. And so we mourn now, but as we learn God’s lesson, as the discipline of God sets in, then such mourning will certainly pass.

We must be mindful also that this is about spiritual warfare. The evil one wants to deprive us of the life-giving Bread and our Eucharistic celebrations and our churches. The enemy continually oppresses God’s people, in this case with COVID-19. But if we repent and turn back to God, then God’s victory over the enemy will be ours.

“Grant me justice, O God; defend me from a faithless people; from the deceitful and unjust rescue me.” (Ps 43:1)

This worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 has been caused by the evil one to afflict the world and God’s people, and has been allowed and used by God to chastise His people for their sins, and to bring them to repentance and back to Him. The world, and much of the Catholic world as well, has been a faithless people, who have turned away from God. Thus, instead of thriving under the protection and provision of a loving God, we are reaping the consequences of our turning away from faith in Jesus.

But justice is providing for each one what is his due. And to God’s covenanted people is due bountiful blessings and a hope-filled life in the here and now. But then there is God’s justice, where God’s covenanted people give to Him what is His due, that is, worship and obedience and fidelity. So if we do our part, then God will do His. Then we can really pray for God to grant us justice. What then is our way out of COVID-19? It is metanoia.

We say and ask, “You, O God, are my strength. Why then do you spurn me? Why must I go about mourning, with the enemy oppressing me?” (Ps 43:2). Though we have spurned God, God does not spurn us. But God does punish us, to discipline us and bring us back to Himself. If we but repent and turn back to God, then His strength will, in an instant, resolve our mourning, and suppress the enemy oppressing us with COVID-19.

“Send your light and your fidelity, that they may be my guide; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place of your dwelling” (Ps 43:3)

God in His faithfulness has already sent us Jesus, who is the light of the world. He is the shepherd who guides us along right paths. We just need to decide to follow him and obey him. When we do so, Jesus guides us to the dwelling place of God—to the church in this world, and to heaven in the next life.

So God, in His time and way, will lift COVID-19, as well as lift the lockdown of our churches. Then as we are able to go back to church and celebrate the Eucharist, each one of us will really have something to look forward to: “that I may come to the altar of God, to God, my joy, my delight. Then I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.” (Ps 43:4). What great joy in our hearts, what great delight in our souls, would that time be. We can only praise and thank God for His goodness and mercy.

We do have much to look forward to. Today we are downcast and groan under the burden of deprivation. But if we see what God is doing, if we look to God, then we put our hope and trust in Him, and wait on Him. The time will come.

“Why are you downcast, my soul?

Why do you groan within me?

Wait for God, for I shall again praise him,

my savior and my God.”

(Ps 42:6,42:12,43:5)

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