In times of peril, faith is indispensable for both believers and unbelievers because it gives us hope. Admittedly, a pandemic scares us to get closer to God.
We also become more aware how dependent we are on the divine help and our trust during the crisis. Yet, it is never easy to talk about faith, either in times of plague or without it.
Faith is a gift of the Lord. It is our personal meeting with Him.
It is the moment when the presence of the Holy Spirit becomes palpable.
It is something personal and unique that remain solely the secrets of your heart.
Today our country, our families, our communities, our school, and our Church face the challenge of the pandemic. There are no words to describe how horrible the calamity is for Americans, and all humanity. Its evil is ruthless; it poisons and defiles the world. As the horror unfolds in this "nation under God," it is our own spirituality, faith, and prayer that count at this difficult time the most.
A brief glance at history reminds us that the people have lived and amid various plagues since times immemorial. One of the earliest written records of a plague comes from the Hebrew Bible. God unleashed the affliction on Egypt when Pharaoh would not free the enslaved Hebrews.
Thucydides narrated about the air born disaster that killed nearly a third of the Athenian population during the Peloponnesian war. Tacitus recalled a pandemic in Rome during the time of Nero.
One of the best known of the plagues was medieval Europe’s "Black Death."
“It so happened that in the month of October in the year of our Lord 1347, around the first of that month, twelve Genoese galleys, fleeing our Lord’s wrath which came down upon them for their misdeed, put in at the port in the city of Messina. They brought with them a plague that they carried down to the very marrow of their bones, so that if anyone so much as spoke to them, he was infected with a mortal sickness which brought on an immediate death that he could in no way avoid”.
This account we owe to the Sicilian chronicler Michele da Piazza, who described a devastating global epidemic of the bubonic plague that struck Europe and Asia.
In the summer year of 1527, plague hit the city of Wittenberg, where Martin Luther and his colleagues launched their Protestant Revolution. Luther lived through the plague. He experienced its devastating effects first-hand. He deliberately chose not to abandon the city and its people. A few months before the outbreak, Luther put out a small treatise, "Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague." It contains some practical advice to Christians how to remain faithful in the face of such a disease.
Luther’s main argument is that during a plague the Christian should never stops serving Christ. The pandemic is "a test our faith and love — our faith in that we may see and experience how we should act toward God: our love in that we may recognize how we should act toward our neighbor."
The plague exists also to strengthen our faith.
Here’s one of Luther’s suggestions still worth pondering: “What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: ‘Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore, I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid persons and places where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.’”
People in general, and Christians in particular, should consider this time of calamity as a test of our faith. And we should give witness that faith in loving, supporting, and serving others express our greatest commandment to love God.
Keep the faith. Faith is a living phenomenon.
It brings us closer to God. It also brings out the love of God in us. The plague shall finally pass, like all things in life. May your faith guide you and keep you stronger.
Monika Jablonska is an author of "Wind from Heaven: John Paul II, The Poet Who Became Pope." Her next book on Saint John Paul II is forthcoming in 2021. She is a lawyer and a literary scholar living in Washington D.C. Read Monika's Reports — More Here.
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