by David Romanik
Over the past few weeks, we have experienced the depth of our weakness on a scale that few of us could have previously imagined. People are dying, hospitals are overwhelmed, businesses are shuttered, and just about everyone is confined to their houses, all because of a microscopic virus. The threat is largely invisible, and yet the physical, economic, and spiritual toll it has inflicted is all too evident. Nevertheless, public health officials tell us that these painful measures are necessary to prevent the virus from spinning out of control. As our bishop has put it, “We are part of a global effort to slow down this virus and save lives. And it is a sacrifice.” Most global efforts to combat threats to civilization throughout history have required us to bravely summon strength we did not know we had. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has demanded an entirely different response. Rather than demonstrating our strength, we have had to confess our weakness. Instead of putting on a brave face, we have had to admit how vulnerable we are. Indeed, we have been forced to acknowledge the fragility of the very civilization we are trying to preserve.
If we are honest, this recognition applies to more than global pandemics. The human condition is, by its very nature, precarious. There are moments in our lives when we all must acknowledge this fact: whether it is when we become ill despite our best efforts to stay healthy, or when we lose what we thought was secure employment, or when we watch as our parents are no longer able to care for themselves, or when we realize that we cannot control the self-destructive choices our children make. Whether we like it or not, we are weak. God’s response to our weakness is not to say that we must make ourselves strong, but to promise that God is with us, even in our weakness. In the letter to the Romans, Paul writes that, in his faithful obedience to God, Christ died for us “while we were still weak.” God’s love and faithfulness, in other words, can overcome the very depths of human frailty. In Jesus Christ, God is present to us even in our suffering.
Obviously, this is not what I expected to write for the Holy Week/Easter edition of the Lay Reader. Yet part of what we affirm in the resurrection is that God can transform and redeem the very worst the world can offer. It is with this trust that we continue to be faithful, even in the midst of uncertainty. It is with this trust that we continue to be the Church, even in the face of pandemic and physical distancing. As we come to terms with the depth of our weakness, we are called to that God’s grace will give us power to meet the days ahead.