Christ wept over ancient Jerusalem for the people’s lack of faith, failing to recognize God in their midst in the Person of Christ. I wonder if Christ also weeps over our culture during this pandemic. Perhaps we too fail to recognize the presence of God among us and turn to Him for help.
We can respond to this pandemic with both reason and faith. Through reason, we adopt all the necessary practical and precautionary measures to avoid contracting and spreading COVID. Our society has already been doing so: vaccines, masks, physical distancing, and lockdowns.
But we can also turn to faith in God. Why not pray to God to end this pandemic? To the unbelieving mind, this would be impractical and useless. We have to take care of ourselves. What can God do? Will He suddenly end the pandemic in response to our prayers? The skeptic will retort that surely people have already been praying, with no results.
God has allowed this pandemic for reasons we cannot know. But that does not mean that it is His direct will that people die from this pandemic, that society shuts down, that churches are limited in their capacity, and that people live in irrational fear.
I believe that if more people prayed instead of just feeding our minds with negative news, we would have more trust and less fear. One of the most damaging effects of COVID has been an epidemic of fear. There are people who have imprisoned themselves in their houses, fearful of any outside contact, lest they contract COVID and die. We know that fear is from the enemy. God does not want us to live in fear, even in the most dire of circumstances.
How can God lessen or remove our fear? By praying, we come to know Him as a loving Father who never abandons His children. We have many words from the psalms that describe God as our protector, our refuge, our shield, and our defender against our enemies, invisible or otherwise. These enemies could be considered evil spirits, or the “enemy” of a virus. God desires to protect us from all these evils.
Christ weeps. He sees His people suffer, but they do not come to Him for help, healing and consolation. Some people simply do not believe in Him. Or they believe He exists, but do not trust Him. Others doubt His ability or willingness to personally help them.
Christ weeps. He sees us running around like orphaned children in a panic, doing everything in our power to save ourselves from this pandemic. Instead, if we also prayed and trusted in God, we could have taken the same precautionary measures but without all the fearmongering. Less irrational fear may have resulted in fewer lockdowns and restrictions on personal and religious gatherings.
We can practice both faith and reason. “I am wearing a mask, but I also trust that God is protecting me. I am practicing physical distancing, but I trust that God is watching over me. I may receive the vaccine, but I am also praying that God will put an end to this pandemic.”
I think Christ also weeps when He sees His houses of prayer limited in their capacity, or closed down completely, as in the case of Quebec. We might speculate that Christ is angry as well. He showed His anger in the temple when His Father’s house was being used as a marketplace. Is He also angry over church closures in Quebec?
At times, Christ expressed righteous and appropriate anger. Often, He denounced the Pharisees for their man-made religious laws and their hypocrisy. But when it came to politics, He did not rampage through Israel like a Zealot, continually denouncing the repression and restrictions of the government of His time, the Roman Empire.
The Scriptures reference the anger of Christ only twice. In the cleansing of the temple, there is no explicit mention of Christ’s anger; rather, His righteous anger is assumed from the context. The only mention of Christ’s anger is in Mark’s version of the healing of the man with the withered hand. Jesus asks those ready to accuse Him, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or do harm, to save life or to kill? But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart.” It is interesting to note that even here, Christ’s anger is linked to His grief and the tenderness of His heart.
Of course, He wants us to have more faith. (I will not judge people for their doubting hearts because in many ways I lack faith as well). Nonetheless, if more of us did have faith and understood the importance of gathering in churches to worship and pray together as a community, more people would be protesting and fighting for our religious rights (and religious rites). Again, we may ponder if Christ is angry over church closures, and the seeming indifference and complacency of His people. But I believe Christ’s grief and sorrow are much deeper than any anger we imagine He might feel concerning this situation. He weeps.
Contrary to two passages mentioning Christ’s anger, mercy is the constant theme of all the Gospels. How often Christ is moved with pity, compassion and mercy for the sick and the sinner. Before His Passion, when he looked out at the city of Jerusalem, He easily could have been angered by the people’s lack of faith in the Messiah in their midst. Instead, He revealed His wounded, merciful, and sorrowful Heart. He wept. When He was hanging on the Cross, in our human minds He would have been entirely justified in “looking around them with anger.” Instead, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
For Christians, I think it can help us immensely to join with Christ in His feelings about this pandemic. He is calling us to follow His Heart, to temper our righteous anger with human grief and heart-felt mercy. He wants us to pray for an end to COVID and its negative consequences, so let us do so. To pray for the opening of churches to their full capacity. To pray for the end of isolation and loneliness, so that family and friends can gather in the warmth of human love and friendship, where Christ is also present. And to pray to overcome fear, both as individuals and as a society. To trust in Him. He is asking us to pray for all these things, so let us do so.
“Jesus, please, put an end to this pandemic. We know that you always hear us and respond to our prayers, and we thank you. Jesus, forgive our society for our lack of trust in you. Jesus, forgive me for my lack of trust in you. Jesus, help us trust in you. We praise you Jesus for your mercy toward us sinners. We praise you for your mercy on us and on the whole world.”
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