And in the streets, the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
— Don McLean, American Pie
“We may not get what we want. We may not get what we need,” chanted the young adults in True Colors. “Just so we don’t get what we deserve.”
— Strauss, William. The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny
Most Catholics in the United States are without access to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Some see this as a relief from the burden.
Some see this as a break in habit.
Others see it as a discipline, a forced separation from God. Perhaps a taste of hell.
Last night, unable to sleep, I watched an amazing episode of Dr. Taylor Marshall’s podcast with guest Eric Sammons. They talked about Catholic leadership in a time of pestilence. What do Catholics do when they have no access to the sacraments? I recommend watching.
But one part of the conversation intrigued me: the part about why this is happening.
Dr. Marshall pointed out that many Catholic bishops are waving their arms and scream, “God doesn’t punish us for our sins.” But this goes against everything we know from the Bible. Taylor stressed that throughout the Hebrew Bible, God allowed bad things to happen to His chosen people, not as punishment, per se, but to draw them closer to Him.
God is perfect and dwells only among the perfect. We saw this, first, in Exodus 29:46: “And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them forth out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them; I am the Lord their God."
Why would God, being perfect, dwell among the imperfect? As Jesus Christ tells us through Matthew 5:48: “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Eric Sammons pointed out the absurdity of those bishops. God is all powerful, right? God could stop coronavirus, right? Therefore, the spread of coronavirus is evidence of His permissive will, at least, if not His active will. If you believe in the God of the Torah, you must believe, at a minimum, He allowed this thing to happen.
But why? Why would a loving God permit so many people to suffer?
My crass answer is, “Did you see what He allowed to happen to his Son?”
Jesus is true God and true man without stain of sin, without blemish. And, yet, He was accused, beaten, humiliated, tortured, and killed. On earth, the justification for His passion and death was blasphemy against God. In Heaven, the reason for His death was that we might live forever in peace with Him and the Father in Heaven.
And this is the answer: only a truly loving God would discipline His children that they might experience the ultimate and eternal joy of His great feast. God knows that this world and this life are nothing. Those who wonder why this life isn’t perfect yet fail to understand that this life was never meant to be perfect. This is the Via Dolorosa for everyone! “Pick up your cross daily and follow me,” Christ commanded. Though He didn’t say it, “all the way to the cross” was implied.
Seventy-five percent of American Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence or the miracle of transubstantiation.
Most American Catholics approve of abortion on demand and practice artificial contraception.
Most American Catholics don’t fulfill their Sunday and Holy Day obligations.
What, then, will the majority of American Catholics miss exactly? Putting on their finest Nike soccer shorts and flip-flops to parade up the carpeted aisle between garish felt banners proclaiming “Joy!” to receive their attendance prize of stale bread and cheap red wine?
The irony is that the few American Catholics like Taylor Marshall and Eric Sammons who actually believe and try to live by the Church’s immemorial teachings are the ones who seem to recognize that we had this coming! And even this is far less than we deserve.
What is a few weeks of “this” after all, compared to an eternity of this?
Yes, this plague is either God’s doing or God’s allowance. And all things happen for a reason. Those who deny the reason deny God. Those who believe they don’t deserve “this,” also deny God by denying that He knows what’s best. As C.S. Lewis once said, “there are two kinds of men in the world. Those who say to God ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘alright, then, have it your way.'”
Our way leads to plague, pestilence, and death without redemption. Like childbirth without the child. A stillborn existence with no meaning.
God’s way leads many to Him and the riches He promised. The wedding feast that never ends.
Therefore, gratitude is the proper feeling. Thank God for caring enough to slap us to our senses.
Let’s close with a communion prayer from St. Augustine of Hippo:
BEFORE Thine eyes, O Lord, we bring our sins, and we compare them with the stripes we have received.
If we examine the evil we have wrought, what we suffer is little, what we deserve is great.
What we have committed is very grievous, what we have suffered is very slight.
We feel the punishment of sin, yet withdraw not from the obstinacy of sinning.
Under Thy lash our inconstancy is visited, but our sinfulness is not changed.
Our suffering soul is tormented, but our neck is not bent.
Our life groans under sorrow, yet amends not in deed.
If Thou spare us, we correct not our ways: if Thou punish, we cannot endure it.
In time of correction we confess our wrongdoing: after Thy visitation we forget that we have wept.
If Thou stretchest forth Thy hand, we promise amendment; if Thou withholdest the sword, we keep not our promise.
If Thou strikest, we cry out for mercy; if Thou sparest, we again provoke Thee to strike
Here we are before Thee, O Lord, confessedly guilty; we know that unless Thou pardon we shall deservedly perish.
Grant then, O almighty Father, without our deserving it, the pardon we ask; Thou Who madest out of nothing those Who ask Thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen
V. Deal not with us, O Lord, according to our sins. R. Neither reward us according to our iniquities.
Let us pray.—O God, Who by sin art offended and by penance pacified, mercifully regard the prayers of Thy suppliant people, and turn away the scourges of Thy wrath, which we deserve for our sins. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.