Thoughts on practicing faith during a pandemic

By Dan Russo

Witness Editor

The coronavirus pandemic has caused many concerned citizens to buy extra supplies. I think being prepared for any possible quarantines or closures is the right thing to do. Thanks, by the way, to the staffs of retail stores that have shown patience under trying conditions. If you’re worried about running out of things, here’s some good news: we won’t need hand sanitizer in heaven, according to St. Paul. (More on that in a moment.) 

Some people I know and love are atheists, agnostics or Christians struggling with their beliefs. Some follow a religion other than Christianity. I’m a Catholic who is very imperfect, but likes to think of himself as having a decent amount of faith. The current situation has me questioning assumptions about the true depth of my trust in God and praying more intensely. Whatever one’s spiritual views may be, a positive aspect of the appearance of the coronavirus is that it reminds everyone how precious our time is and it forces us to consider what happens after we die. Jesus said that, if we follow him, when we do eventually take our last breath, it won’t be the end. One particularly vivid description of this promise is in the first letter to the Corinthians by St. Paul (15:51-55):

“… We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. … then the word that is written shall come about: 

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?” 

Lent is supposed to spark a desire in us as individuals to reflect on our mortality, the mission of Jesus and how we live as Christians. The coronavirus has added some serious fuel to that contemplative fire this year. 

As a community, we’ve been told we all need to work together to face this public health emergency. Obviously, this is easier said than done, especially when people are afraid. Even so, I believe in ordinary people’s ability to unite for the common good in difficult situations. We’ve seen it happen before. The responses to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina are two examples from my lifetime.   

Another line of Scripture that has been coming to mind these days is “perfect love drives out fear” from the first letter of John (4:18). I’m trying to say this every time I wash my hands. Drawing inspiration from the courage of the medical personnel now caring for the sick, I’m praying for everyone affected by the disease and for the bravery to help others if they need me. 

Cover photo: Newlyweds Diego Fernandes and Deni Salgado kiss through protective face masks during their wedding ceremony with only witnesses and no guests in Naples, Italy, March 20, 2020. Public gatherings are banned as part of Italy’s lockdown measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (CNS photo/Ciro De Luca, Reuters)