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What We Can Learn From The Current Pandemic

May 10, 2020 Featured Today No Comments

By DONALD DeMARCO

It has been said that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. The current pandemic has derailed everyone’s plans. The higher plans are in God’s good hands and not in the hands of any insurance company.
We are not in control of our lives. This is a hard lesson to learn and can be difficult for many people to accept. In the final analysis, the plans that God has in mind, mysterious as they are, are for the best. Therefore, the current pandemic is a time to strengthen our faith in God.
In what has been billed as the worst movie ever made, Plan 9 From Outer Space, one plan is replaced by another. But we are at a loss to know exactly what new plan to put into effect. We do not know what God’s plan is, and consequently must wait in the absence of any plan of our own. Faith replaces our plans.
And if we see the present situation as a chastisement for a world that has turned away from Him, we might find inspiration in the words of St. Paul:
“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (Phil. 2:14-16).
The coronavirus is pandemic, but so, too, is the indefensible notion that something is good simply because we choose it. Mere choice is not sufficient to justify anything. The chief sin of Adam was to believe that he, and not God, had the power to determine what is good. His pride and disobedience to God’s law constitute what is known as original sin. We find ourselves imitating Adam today, and not Christ.
Thus, we are learning the hard way, since many choices — friendly gatherings and for some, even leaving their domicile — are no longer open to us at this time. Governments are mandating that we subordinate our private choice to the general welfare.
We are obliged to recognize and make sacrifices for the good of others, a critical lesson we are long overdue in re-learning. From a moral point of view, our actions cannot be restricted to self-interest. We are obliged to consider the good of the entire world. Self-indulgence is no longer permissible.
We plan our lives and make our choices and suddenly realize they are no longer practical or acceptable. The laws we could count on to regulate our lives have been overturned. However, the Golden Rule and the great commandments to love God and neighbor remain unmodified. We can rely on them no matter how grave our situation becomes.
God’s laws are always in vogue. In a time of crisis, their acceptance can be the inspiration for heroism. We need the patience of Job, the Wisdom of Solomon, and the dedication of St. Paul. Hard times can bring about strong character. The Chinese ideogram for “crisis” is composed of the radicals “wei” and gi,” meaning “danger” plus “opportunity.” We must be strong enough to face the danger and locate the opportunity.
We recall St. John Paul II’s first words when he assumed the pontificate: “Be not afraid.” We should not be afraid of our own limitations. This, combined with faith in God, gives us the strength not only to endure, but to prevail. The secular virtues by which people in the world find their way from day to day are thin. “Have a nice day,” “Lots of luck,” and “Just say ‘No’ to drugs” pale before “Be not afraid.”
As St. Cardinal Newman has stated, “Mere natural virtue wears away when men neglect to deepen it into religious principle.” John D. Rockefeller’s celebrated aphorism that “the business of America is business” is being mocked right now by the precipitous fall of the stock market. If the basis of culture is “business,” then those who are caught in this claustrophobic trap are effectively excluded from all the values and visions that exist beyond the narrow confines of commercial activity.
America is now called to a higher “business” — unselfish cooperation and the task of saving lives. In that higher calling, America is called to live by God’s laws. The great lyric poet, John Keats, understood the value of difficult times. “Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and trouble is,” he wrote, “to school an intelligence and make it a soul?”
We should not be content with simply being a consumer; we should aspire to being an authentic, integrated person.
We are not in control; God is. We need to subordinate our choices to the good of others. We need to take advantage of opportunities for personal growth in this calamitous moment of history. We need to live, not by cultural clichés, but by adhering to the word of God. We need to find a place for Christ in our hearts. We are not doomed; we are being tested. Let us pray that we can meet the test.

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(Dr. Donald DeMarco is a professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College & Seminary. He is a regular columnist for the St. Austin Review. His latest three books are How to Navigate Through Life and Apostles of the Culture of Life [posted on amazon.com], and the soon to be published, A Moral Compass for a World in Confusion.)

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