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His Excellency Marian Eleganti, former auxiliary bishop of Chur, Switzerland.KATH.NET / YouTube

(Kath.net) – Where the support in the Christian faith is missing or has fallen away, fear and irrationality dominate, as can be seen. The resources of love and tolerance are quickly used up and turn into aggression and hatred. The Church is not first and foremost a servant of the state, but the Bride of Christ, the mediatrix and dispenser of His mysteries (sacraments).

She must not make sacramental life difficult and inaccessible to the faithful on the basis of purely secular exclusion criteria. After two years of COVID, it remains to be feared that the measures have done more harm than good. And there is no end in sight.

The promises have not been kept; the game-changer promised has not brought back normality as we knew it. It is certain that the so-called herd immunity of the population can no longer be achieved through vaccination. We will have to live with the virus. Alternative, harmless ways of treatment are still being boycotted. We are about to lose our freedom and social cohesion for good. After two years of COVID, we are worse off than ever.

The Church must stop subjecting access to Her sacraments to secular criteria that are alien to Her and exclude believers accordingly. She must not accept that many believers remain outside the door through quite arbitrary political measures, while Christ calls them all to Himself in the churches. The Church cannot negotiate with the state about conditions of admission to Her sacraments and then rigorously enforce the corresponding controls at the church portals in Her name. She is a minister of salvation, not a health policeman. Believers can decide for themselves where they go and how they protect themselves.

Everything that was visible about Jesus in this world has passed into the sacraments, wrote Leo the Great. But what would the Lord say about this behavior of the Church? Would He give His approval? Doubts are in order!

Many believers are affected who are in existential spiritual and physical need while Jesus is in their midst through the sacraments. From Him they expected a way out in justified faith. But we make the way to Him difficult for them.

They do not tend to challenge God, but they expect protection and blessing from Him in every situation. If He has counted all the hairs on my head (Luke 12:7; Mt 10:30) and no sparrow falls from a branch without His will (Mt 10:29), as Jesus teaches, I may assume that even during this pandemic I am in His hands and nothing happens without His will.

This changes everything in the way I deal with the challenges involved. Even the one who observes all precautions as best as he can has no other guarantee and security than that of placing himself in God’s hands. What would have happened if all of Christendom had intensified its sacramental life (Holy Confession; Holy Mass; Holy Communion; Adoration) instead of “winding it down”? I am convinced: She would have been heard. What a witness to the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist that would have been! Every believer expects God’s intervention every day when he witnesses the transubstantiation of the bread into the Body of Christ through the words of the ordained priest.

Daily we hear in the scripture readings testimonies of faith and corresponding divine action based on that faith, but we no longer muster the faith that relates to divine interventions.

I recall the Israelites in the desert (cf. Num 21:4-9) who, bitten by poisonous snakes, had to look up to the copper serpent raised by Moses in an act of faith demanded by God (an allegory in view of the Lord raised from the earth, crucified and risen, cf. John 3:14f) in order to stay alive. I recall the five barley loaves and the two fish (cf. John 6:9) which Jesus multiplied in order to satisfy a huge crowd so that they would not collapse from emaciation on the way home? I recall the woman with the flowing blood (Mark 5:25-34) who wanted to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment because a power was coming from Him that healed all: “All the people were trying to touch him, because a power was coming from him that healed all” (Luke 6:19). Is the Holy Eucharist not the Body of Christ?

I am reminded of St. John Bosco, who promised his boys — if they were in the state of grace — that they would not be infected, even though they were caring for infected people and there was reasonably no other security than precisely that of trust in God and the promise of the (irresponsible?) saint. Somebody told me this episode only recently.

As a final example, I refer to the Bishop of Marseille who freed the city from the plague by believing the vision of a young mystic (Anne Madeleine Rémusat) and consecrating the city to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which instantly brought the end of the plague to that city.

Now we read in Mark 16:18 that Jesus promised His disciples that even deadly poison could not harm them because God decides our fate, whether we live or die. However, Jesus only ever worked His signs where people had faith in Him, at least the beginning of faith. That is why He repeats again and again: Your faith has helped you!

Where He did not find it, He left the people to their own ways and worked only a few miracles, such as in Nazareth, His hometown. Perhaps the path taken by the Church of our day actually corresponds to Her spiritual condition. The fact that the “sensus fidelium” of many believers feels alienated by this in the Church gives me pause for thought as a bishop.

Those responsible in state and Church underestimate the spiritual suffering of the faithful who until now have regularly gone to the sacraments. Their faith tells them that we are always in the hands of God and that nothing happens without His will or permission. The idea of contagion when taking communion, therefore, takes some getting used to for them, to say the least. No, they reject it. And does not faith, as small as a mustard seed, seem the most irrational thing there is, when it asks a tree to transplant itself into the sea (cf. Lk 7:5f)? Nevertheless, Jesus calls us to such a daring trust in God.

And one last thing: It is said again and again that God does not punish! Is that so? But in the mouth of the prophets and in the mouth of Jesus He does. “And in His wrath the Lord delivered him up to the smiters until He had paid the whole debt. In the same way my heavenly Father will treat you unless each one forgives his brother from the heart” (Mt 18:34f).

This does not mean that everyone who suffers does so because he has sinned (cf. John 9:1–10,21). Jesus made this clear in response to an explicit question from the disciples. I also do so at this point in my reflection. But Jesus told another, “Look, you have been made well; sin no more, lest something worse happen to you” (John 5:14).

This is something that today’s society should remember and be told. I spoke of this context in my video at the beginning of the pandemic without putting the word “punishment” in my mouth. For me, it is rather a banal and self-evident truth that we as humanity cannot go against God’s laws and order “with impunity” without incurring negative consequences. After all, sin — as the saying goes — brings its “wages” ipso facto, without God having to do anything.

Through faith in Jesus Christ we enter into communion with Him. He Himself testifies to our conscience that He is the truth and the life. “I was born and came into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37).

Truth has a hard time in our days. The answer to its need is Jesus Christ. The Church too must turn to Him anew and expect everything from Him! There will be no solution for them otherwise.

Reprinted from Kath.net with permission from Bishop Eleganti.