I called my 93-year-old uncle in Pennsylvania the other day to see how he was holding up. I said, “Bubs, I’ve got two cases of Corona beer here with your name on it! I’ll sell it cheap! Interested?” He just laughed and told me that he and Betty were still going out dancing every week and had no intention of changing his habits. If I told him to stay inside, he’d laugh at me. I guess he figured he survived W.W. II and the Great Depression and a hundred different strains of the virus, so why change now??
Well, I wish it were that easy: just ignoring the current pandemic and carrying on life as usual. That’s simply not an option anymore. Every day and almost every hour of the day we are inundated with more details about this on-going crisis. The drip, drip, drip of the news is both exhausting and unnerving. None of us has ever seen anything like it in our lifetimes.
I attended a high-level Town meeting the other day, convened by the Mayor and our Health Director. It detailed the cancellation of numerous Town meetings and the closing of all public and parochial schools in Town, as well as the remedial steps underway to combat this epidemic. They estimated that within 6 short weeks, over 20% of the nation’s population will have been infected by the virus, although many will show no or only mild symptoms. But for the most vulnerable, it will be life-threatening. Without question, we are all to take this pandemic most seriously and take all reasonable precautions to protect ourselves and our families.
Fear is spreading even faster than the disease itself. There is panic buying at Costco’s, BJ’s and all the grocery stores, and panic selling on Wall Street. You couldn’t buy toilet paper or Purell if your life depended on it! And it may!
So, what are we to do? We’re not going to crawl under our beds in fear and trepidation and wait for the worst. No. We will do the best we can and we will survive this. The first thing to do is to remain calm and collected and to place all of our trust in God. The second thing is to pray for the containment and eradication of the virus. The third thing is to do our civic duty by carrying out the directives of our health care professionals, protecting not only ourselves but our neighbors as well.
Some skeptics out there will say that praying is a waste of time, that we should just listen to the scientists and to trust in science, not God. How foolish! Don’t they know that science and God are one?? There’s no separation between the two. The One who created every particle of the universe and each one of us knows better than anyone how all things work together. There is nothing which God doesn’t know.
Did not our Lord tell the Samaritan woman that all believers must worship in Spirit and the truth? Did not our Lord tell his disciples that He was the way, the truth, and the life? Science is truth, but it’s only partially understood by imperfect human beings.
The living water that our Lord offered the woman in the Gospel was the Truth and the personification of the Truth —- the Holy Spirit.
In today’s second reading, St. Paul said, “we boast in hope of the glory of God. *** Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” The Lord is offering all of us hope in order to combat our natural fears and doubts.
Some believe that this pandemic is God’s punishment upon a sinful and faithless world. The Church doesn’t take that position. God certainly has permitted this epidemic but He most certainly did not create it, any more than He created the holocaust or the plague. So, where is God in all of this? He’s where He always is: in those who are suffering and are in pain. He’s with the doctors and nurses and first responders. He’s with the elderly and the most vulnerable. He’s here, with you and me.
God knows that we deserve his punishment, just as the Samaritan woman did. That’s why she came to the well at high noon, during the hottest part of the day. No one else wanted to be around her and she probably thought God didn’t either. But our Lord offered her not condemnation and punishment, but forgiveness, hope, and eternal life. He offers the same gift to us today; but, in order to receive that gift, we need faith. We need to place our trust completely in his hands, the loving and healing hands of the divine physician.
We may well face darker days in the weeks ahead, but our Lord is the Light that casts away all darkness and all fear. He offers us faith and hope where there is doubt and despair. In the midst of this earthly desert, He offers us an abundance of life-giving water.
So, drink up, my friends!! And you’ll never be thirsty or wanting again.
-Deacon Kurmay, Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent- March 15, 2020