The Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for Sunday, March 22, 2020
How do we handle ourselves in a crisis such as Coronavirus plague?
We are in a difficult place in the world at this time, dear friends. The coronavirus is wrecking the lives of human beings everywhere. The economy of every country is impacted. China has been hit hardest, so far, but the danger is everywhere, is spreading, and is nowhere near being contained anywhere. Even countries like Uganda that don’t yet have a single confirmed case of coronavirus are on edge because of the interconnectedness of nations. Uganda trades a lot with China where businesses are on a near standstill. All over the world people are getting sick from the virus, and others are dying. Businesses are slowing down if not shutting down outright. Uncertainty of possible infection is on everyone. No one knows who is sick and who is not. What do we do?
Satan likes to exploit such a state of affairs to cause the people of God to forget all about their God and join the world in tearing their clothes, feeling hopeless. Tearing one’s clothes in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, was associated with mourning, grief, and great loss. Also, it signified being at the end of one’s tether with no hope left, having come to an impassable dead end. One is pushed to the wall hard from all sides. The King is in checkmate (chess) from which he cannot extricate himself. Game up. What do I do? Panic. Hysteria. Uncontrollable emotions. Unthinking actions.
The high priest as the representatives of all priests was not allowed to tear his clothes. He and his fellow priests were never to come to an unbearable level of grief or a hopeless situation to which there was no way out because they had God as their refuge whatever circumstances happened to exist. When Caiaphas the high priest tore his clothes at the trial of Jesus (Matthew 26:65), he was expressing extreme shock beyond imagination at Jesus saying openly and boldly, “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64 ESV). Caiaphas almost went into a cardiac arrest to see Jesus, whom he considered to be a mere human being, standing there, helpless and making such an outlandish and outrageous claim. (By the way, the high priest should have been reprimanded for tearing his clothes, but he wasn’t. The focus of the moment was to get Jesus out of the way).
Panic and hysteria are the natural reactions when danger looks us humans in the eye, especially danger such as the coronavirus which is hyped as being very dangerous and is spreading like a wildfire fanned by strong winds, and has no known cure or vaccine. We can feel lost and our minds conjure up all kinds of possible scenarios in which we can likely contract the disease. We want to run as far as we can to avoid infection or do whatever it takes to deter infection.
And the news outlets have not helped matters. I listen to two different types of TV News Networks. One type maintains a narrative of blame, constantly playing up what they call failures of government and health officials to do the right thing in the fight. These outlets use language that instills fear and desperation in people, portraying the situation as hopeless. The other type recognizes the existing problem, but speaks calmly, encouraging people to follow the advice of the health experts to keep themselves and others safe. I don’t know why the news people present news to the public in such diametrically different fashions. All should speak the same language and use the same tone as the world looks for a solution to this big problem we have. No incitive language should be used to frighten the public into a frenzy. The planet is not going to melt down.
We Christian people really are the ones with a solution and answer to the fears of the world. Our God is the Lord of the universe. He knows our lives in and out, each one of us. He knows what will happen to us and when. Our days are in his hands. He has counted them on the palm of his hand. We absolutely need never to be unduly perturbed by circumstances however dire, frightful, or calamitous. Of course, we are to be careful and responsible in the instant crisis and follow the advice of health experts, but we don’t join the world in running wild chaotically, distraught with fear for our lives on account of what is happening around us. We carry ourselves with peace and serenity because we know the Lord is in control. Let us rest in and trust his sovereignty, omniscience, and divine wisdom to get us where he wants to get us. We are safe in his loving hands.
In everything that happens to us, underneath are the everlasting arms of our God (Deuteronomy 33:27). The eternal God is our refuge. I pray that we all come to possess a deep trust in God’s goodness and power and put our lives and those of our loved ones in his big hands. Nothing will happen to us which has not passed his desk and got his nod. Whatever he allows to happen to us, we ask him to give us the grace to face it with contented hearts. Sometimes God answers our prayers by warding off the fire from us, and sometimes by letting us pass through the fire but with him at our side. Case in point, God didn’t prevent Daniel from being thrown in the blazing furnace of fire, but God was with Daniel in the blazing furnace (Daniel 4:24-25). Said St Patrick, “For daily I expect to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion arises. But I fear nothing, because of the promises of Heaven; for I have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God, who reigns everywhere. As the prophet says: ‘Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you’” From The Confessions of St. Patrick.