Friday, April 10, 2020

Take the First Choice: A Reflection

One thing that strikes me on facing the pandemic on Good Friday is how it gives us the opportunity to reflect on how powerless and dismayed the original followers of Christ  might have felt, seeing Our Lord captured, mistreated, unjustly judged, and executed. We might be tempted to think, things aren’t supposed to be this way! We might also reflect on Christians throughout history who faced privation, persecution, and other suffering. Again, we might be tempted to think, things aren’t supposed to be this way!


But, since things are this way, we have few options. We can recognize that following Christ is not a guarantee for a life free from suffering but continue to trust in Him, we can look for some sort of scapegoat, or we can fall into doubt that God is who the Church proclaim Him to be.


The Christian needs to take the first path. But we are weak, and are often tempted to take the second or third choice. Sometimes we think they are the reasonable choice. But both of those choices means we must deny some teaching of Our Lord.


The second choice—finding a scapegoat—falls into the temptation of saying we should have a strife free life as Christians, but somebody’s to blame when it happens. This kind of mindset ignores the fact that Our Lord warned us that persecutions and trials would come. In the most extreme examples, we have the vicious customs in Germanic countries where people looked for witches who “caused” the disaster. Unfortunately, while the barbaric treatment has ended, the thinking continues where people tell us: It’s the fault of X that we’re suffering.


The third choice—falling into doubt about what God is—was displayed by the disciples on the Road to Emmaus:


And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. (Luke 24:19-21)


Because Jesus had suffered and died, they doubted that He was able to do as He claimed. I was reminded of this when I watched the film Silence where the main character was forced to watch other Christians suffer, and allowed himself to think that the outcome he saw was because of God’s not caring or not being able to respond. He ended up apostasizing from the Faith.


As we face the future of quarantining for God alone knows how long, we might be tempted to fall into the second or third option in dealing with it. But as Christians, we must choose the first option, trusting in God that He is in control, despite what happens to us in this life. That doesn’t just mean “passively accept injustice” or “treat the physical as meaningless.” It means trust in God as in control of the universe and trust in His love to seek our ultimate good.


It’s not wrong to pray for deliverance. But let’s just remember that something bad happening to us does not mean that somebody else must be to blame or that God is failing us.





(†) While some people think the Church invented “trials of ordeal” and “witch burning,” these customs began with the pre-Christian Germanic tribes. Unfortunately, these customs were not ended when those lands became Christian. They were not used where the Inquisition existed.

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