March 12, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) ― A priest has offered a reflection of hope in the face of the coronavirus outbreak that has led not only to massive social and financial disruption, illness, and death, but also to the loss of Sunday Mass for thousands of Catholics this month.
Churches have been closed to the faithful in both Italy and Slovakia, and Archbishop Paul Etienne has suspended all public Masses in the Seattle archdiocese in the United States. Etienne released a video yesterday explaining that he had introduced the ban “out of an extreme measure of caution” and reminded his priests of their obligation to say Mass every day. In Quebec, Canada, bishops have also suspended Sunday Masses. In Philadelphia, Bishop Nelson J. Perez has taken the less extreme step of suspending his flock’s obligation to attend Sunday Mass this week instead of forbidding them the holy sacrifice. Austria’s bishops have done the same.
As serious and distressing as these measures are, Fr. Anthony Pillari told LifeSiteNews (read full comments below) that the Lord Himself told us that we should have “great hope” in the time of any tribulation, “including the current virus epidemic.”
Calling the crisis a “great spiritual opportunity,” Pillari reminded us that we should be happy when facing death, for it will bring us to Christ.
“The current crisis is a wonderful opportunity to bear witness to others of our own peace, calm, faith, and hope in Christ and in what — we hope — awaits us after this life,” he said.
“That calm, joyful witness can help others discover the only true source of hope and life: our Blessed Lord.”
The reminder that we will all die one day should also help us reflect on what is truly important.
“As opposed to sudden death which leaves little to no time for conversion, the knowledge of the possibility of imminent death can be most helpful,” Pillari wrote.
“It can lead people to reflect on how they are spending their time, on the meaning of life, on what is truly important, on the mistakes they have made.”
He noted also that this is a good time to reflect on the Four Last Things ― Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell ― and to evangelize our unchurched brothers and sisters.
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A Great Spiritual Opportunity
By Fr. Anthony Pillari
“Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Lk 21:28). Our Lord speaks here of the great hope we should have in any time of tribulation, including the current virus epidemic. And He is speaking here of a much worse tribulation — of natural disasters and persecutions on a level that has men “fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.” (Lk 21:26). Even when that time comes, we will be called to lift up our heads with hope because of what is drawing near: our redemption!
When faced with the possibility of death (though that seems a remote possibility for most of us in the current situation), we should have the attitude of St. Paul, whose “desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better,” (Phil 1:23), but who is willing to remain on the earth if that is God’s will, to work for the salvation of others. The current crisis is a wonderful opportunity to bear witness to others of our own peace, calm, faith, and hope in Christ and in what — we hope — awaits us after this life. That calm, joyful witness can help others discover the only true source of hope and life: our Blessed Lord.
This is also a great opportunity, according to the means and vocation of each, to invite others to embrace what St. Paul terms “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5). It is a great blessing for our societies—the vast majority of which have turned away from God—to be faced with this crisis and with the possibility of death (however remote, in fact, that possibility is). As opposed to sudden death which leaves little to no time for conversion, the knowledge of the possibility of imminent death can be most helpful. It can lead people to reflect on how they are spending their time, on the meaning of life, on what is truly important, on the mistakes they have made.
This is therefore a time for the Church to invite all men to embrace “The Way, the Truth, and the Life,” (Jn 14:6) to give them hope that salvation is possible for them, that with God’s grace they can change their lives and receive His forgiveness. For those still attending Mass — whether in person or following online — it is a good opportunity to preach on the four last things: death, judgment, Heaven, and Hell. For those with no faith or for those who have abandoned the practice of the faith, it is a privileged moment to evangelize, to offer them the hope that comes from the possibility of conversion and of receiving all that Christ offers.
Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to obtain for each of us, through Her prayers, the grace to bear witness, right now in the midst of this crisis, to the saving truth of Christ. And let us ask Her to obtain for all those who are far from Her Son the grace of true conversion.