Saturday, May 15, 2021

PAUL AND THE PAGANS

 

This past Wednesday the lectionary gave us Paul's famous speech to the Greeks at the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17:22-18:1). It's one of several speeches that Luke, the author of Acts, puts in the mouths of various central characters in Acts as a vehicle to present the teachings of the apostles in the very early days of the church. 

Paul did not actually spend a lot of time in Athens, it seems, but his visit gives Luke the opportunity to let his imagination go to work. Here is Paul, highly educated in Greek philosophy and culture as well as in Jewish beliefs and traditions, coming face to face with the pagan philosophers in the very cradle of Greek thought, Athens. Artists and writers have always enjoyed depicting Paul wandering among the shrines and the statues of the Greek Gods. 

Paul preaching at the Areopagus in Athens

 You may remember how the episode begins:

 Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said: “You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’ What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. (17:22-25)

I believe we can learn a lot from Paul's speech in this encounter between Christianity and the pagan world. He doe not attack the pagan beliefs of his listeners, and in fact seems very sympathetic. He compliments them on their religiosity, shows his familiarity with their literature and culture, and handles very gently the whole question of idolatry. Only then does he take the occasion to challenge his audience to examine their ideas about divinity, asking them to consider divine power not just from the point of view of creation, but also of judgment. He goes on to pose various shortcomings of their religious system for them to ponder. Some are persuaded by his arguments, and some are not, but he is invited to come and speak again.

Homer tells it like it is! 
In our polarized world, maybe Paul can teach us to be less polemical, to start with a less dualistic attitude (we're right and they're wrong). Maybe a little more respect on our part can help to heal the divisiveness that's eating away at the heart of our country.

Come to think of it, I bet that if Paul were to deliver such a respectful speech to non-believers today, many committed Christians would protest angrily and accuse him of being "soft on paganism." 

We might well pray to Paul to teach us a thing or two about the art of respectful Christian confrontation.


Saturday, May 8, 2021

SMALL RELIGION, SMALL GOD

 I'm rereading Richard Rohr's "Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality," which I highly recommend. On page 148 he offers an example of how God forgives and transforms us. Here are a few lines:

Paul, of course, in the New Testament, is presented as a transformed accuser, a converted persecutor, maybe even a mass-murderer, whom we now call a saint. No one had been more pious, Jewish and law-abiding than Paul (Philippians 3:5-16). He was a perfect Pharisee, as he said, and suddenly he realized that in the name of love he had become hate, in the name of religion he had become a murderer, in the name of goodness he had become evil.

Paul was set up to recognize the dark side of religion, the scape-goating mechanism, the self-serving laws of small religion. He went global and that changed everything, and is probably why most of us are reading the bible today." 148

During the Easter season the daily mass lectionary has been taking us through the story of the early church with readings from the Acts of the Apostles, so we're familiar with the story of Saul's conversion as well as the opposition of the Pharisees and Scribes. One phrase in the above passage caught my eye, however, and gave me pause: "the self-serving laws of small religion." 

What does "small religion" look like? I'm afraid that a description might start hitting pretty close to home for some of us. "Small religion" limits God's sphere of action only to members of the particular in-group, those who have the legal formulas for pleasing God and the moral laws that, if obeyed, guarantee ones entrance into eternal reward. 

The first Christians were, as we know, all Jews. When non-Jews began being converted to Christ and seeking Baptism, these Jewish Christians faced a momentous decision: Should non-Jews be required to become Jews first and follow Jewish dietary laws and observe the sabbath? The principles of "small religion" were telling many of these Jewish Christians to insist that any convert must observe Jewish laws (Acts 15:1). But Peter, Paul and others, seeing how the Holy Spirit had come down upon these gentile converts, insisted that there be no such restrictions placed on the gentile converts. Thanks in great part to Paul, who had once been a champion of "small religion," the temptation to make Christianity a "small religion" of exclusivity and self-serving laws had been overcome, and the Good News could then begin to spread throughout the Gentile world with a speed that still to this day amazes even atheistic historians and scholars.  

To what extent is my religion a "small religion?" The answer is not a matter of black-or-white, but one of degree. For example, to what extent am I so preoccupied with obeying rules and regulations that I overlook any intimate personal relationship with God? To what extent is my God a fearsome enforcer who punishes us sinners (the contrary of the loving Father revealed to us by Jesus in the parables)? What is my God's attitude toward atheists, or Buddhists or Jews or Protestants? To what extent is my religion confined merely to Church and its clear boundaries, obligations, authority structure and so forth? I'm afraid that there are Catholics who take great comfort in the "small religion" aspects of our church, and ignore the saving message of the Universal Christ who came to save the whole of humanity. We could all do well to listen (again?) to the message of a certain visionary priest and scholar. 

The French Jesuit, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), was a priest, scientist, paleontologist, theologian and philosopher who taught that the idea of evolution was at the center of God's ongoing plan for the world, and that everything in the universe was taking part in this development; the Universal Christ and his mystical body were part of this evolution that was heading toward one ultimate goal. His vision of the Holy Eucharist is a perfect antidote to "small religion's" view of the world.

When he gazed at the host as he elevated it during mass, he saw not God captured in a small wafer of bread for the benefit of the people attending mass, but a point from which infinite energy of divine love radiated out  beyond the farthest galaxies into the entire universe, and into every electron and every atom in every molecule in the universe. This is not "small religion!" He encourages us to see ourselves as members of the Body of the Universal Christ, the One who loves all of creation with unbounded love. This is the Christ that Saint Paul spent the rest of his life preaching.


May the graces of the Easter Season open our hearts and minds to this vision of a universal Christ and a universal Church!



Saturday, May 1, 2021

"WE ARE WITNESSES"

The daily mass readings during the Easter Season retell every year the story of the early Church according to the Acts of the Apostles. And each year, as I listen to and read Luke's account of the first days of the spread of Christianity, I notice more and more one word that keeps recurring, especially in the many speeches given by Paul and Peter and others. These earliest preachers of the Gospel use this word to describe themselves so often that scholars consider this the first name that Christ's followers applied to themselves. The word is "witness." (The word doesn't appear on my list of labels for posts on this blog, but I imagine that I must have written one or two reflections on this topic already.)

My father, a lawyer, had shelves of books of various kinds at home. Right in the midst of the technical volumes, there was one whose title stood out: "So, You Are Going to Be A Witness."  I don't remembering ever opening it, but the title has stuck with me for over seventy years. And today it has taken on a pointed, personal meaning.

The original word for "witness" in the Greek is, as you may know, martus (plural martyroi)." Among the first followers of Christ the word very quickly took on the meaning that it has for us today:  a "martyr" was a "witness" who died for his or her faith in Christ. So the word had a much heavier weight when Peter or Paul preached "we are witnesses to all these things." Here is a list of just some uses of the word "witness": Luke 11:48, 24:48; Acts 1:8, 22; 2:32, 3:15, 5:32, 10:39, 41; 13:31; 22:15; 26:16)   

Besides the idea of "witnessing," a second important characteristic of the early church's remembrance oft he Easter story and of Jesus' appearances after the resurrection is the fact that each of those appearances ends with the believers being given a mission of some kind, from a simple task such as "Go and tell my brothers to go into Galilee (Mt. 28:10)," all the way to the great commission "Go, make disciples of all nations (Mt.28:19)."

The combination of the two ideas of being a witness and of being sent out on a mission summarize the baptismal commitment of every one of us Christians. and the title of that book, "So, You Are Going to Be A Witness," keeps me asking myself what kind of a witness I am being to the presence of the Risen Jesus to my brothers and sisters.

May the risen One teach you and me how to be great witnesses to the reality of His new life!



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

CONVOCATION AND COVID

 Tomorrow, April 25, 2021, is "Good Shepherd Sunday." so named because of the gospel passage for the day, in which Jesus calls himself the "good shepherd" and we, of course, are his flock. As I started to meditate on this image early this morning I realized that the idea of a "flock" seemed awfully limited and closed in. This was a a stark contrast with last week's post that reflected the wide open, infinite perspective of the "Universal Christ."

Convocation Pre-pandemic

The more immediate reason why the idea of a "flock" seems kind of limiting is my experience during the past thirteen months of the way we start each school day here at St. Benedict's Prep. Since the day we reopened in July of 1973, we've met as a school community to take attendance, to pray, listen to scripture, sing songs, and make announcements. In mid-March last year the 600 of us crowded together as usual in the small gym for our usual morning "convocation." None of us knew that this would be our last "convo" for over a year. That afternoon it was announced that due to the pandemic, all classes in our Middle and Prep Divisions would be virtual, starting on Monday(!) 

Covid Convo - now with our girls

In a normal school, that would have meant that there would be no more morning convocation. But, as you may have gathered, ours is no normal school. Over the weekend, our computer technology person, Dexter Lopina, arranged everything so that on Monday morning we held "convo" virtually, with everyone in attendance. We followed the usual format, including songs played by Dr. Lansang. The first couple of weeks of convocation were strange, like everything else at the time, but soon we settled in to a routine that we still follow (with several improvements) as of this writing, over a year later. 

The following article that I wrote for our school newspaper, the "Benedict News," helps explain why I now have a much wider sense of the image of Christ's "flock." I wrote the following for the students, but I think you can fill in most of the missing information.

I like to picture the St. Benedict’s Prep Community as a set of concentric circles, each fitting inside the next larger circle, like a bullseye target. In the center is the monastic community that has been here longer than the school, and of course founded and still acts as the spiritual hub of St. Benedict’s. Moving outward you have the academic community of students, teachers, staff and parents. Then there’s the larger circle of thousands of alumni, friends and supporters. Somewhere inside these circles you have to locate the members of Saint Mary’s Church and the NeoCatechumenal community sponsored by the monks. And the neighbors who come to the Food Pantry, and others who I’m leaving out.

In the center of the bullseye is the monastic community, which has been the least affected by the Covid pandemic. The monks’ routine of daily prayer and mass has continued unchanged, although we do wear masks and sit six feet apart as we pray. The monastic schedule of meals, recreation and meetings has continued as well. Saint Benedict says somewhere in the Rule that “It is by no means good for monks to go about outside of the monastery.” So he would be proud of us Downtown Monks over the past year.

Every time I’m in church praying with my brother monks I sense ripples of grace and blessings and God’s love spreading outward through all those circles to every member of the wider “community,” from Kindergarteners to the oldest alumni.

A few years ago PBS aired a 90-minute documentary about the abbey and school, entitled “The Rule.” Two different friends of mine who saw it made the same remark to me about the school: “What I sensed all during the movie was a lot of love.” These were people who had never visited us, but they caught the spirit of the place, thanks to the Bongiornos who did the documentary. When visitors step into our bustling buildings, many of them feel it right away -- that spirit of love that we all have for one another, expressed in so many ways, such as student leaders caring for younger students, group members building bonds with their brothers in their group, or the way teachers and counselors give themselves selflessly to the students.

You would imagine, then, that the pandemic restrictions and the emptying of the Prep and Middle Division buildings would have put an end to all of that love as we switched to virtual everything. However I, at least, got a pleasant surprise when just the opposite happened to our community. 

Over a year ago, on the first day of virtual learning, the SBP community kept right on praying together at Monday morning convocation with all the students and faculty in attendance. We never missed a day of Scripture readings, Psalms and songs. Then before long, something very special began happening: members from the wider circles of our community began attending convo with us: Alumni of St. Benedict’s and of Benedictine Academy, elders, and friends of all ages. Friends and alumni started to join us from countries around the world including Israel, the Netherlands, Brazil and Mongolia. Many of these visitors, especially alumni, have been participating in convo via the “chat” that streams alongside the video, emphasizing even more the feeling of shared community. 

Did you ever ask yourself what draws these people back every morning at 8:00 a.m.? I would say that it’s the same thing that my two friends saw in the documentary, or that visitors feel when they enter our buildings: Love. The love shows itself at convo in the praying and singing, in the chatter and the chat, in the corny jokes and the sense of family. The members of our extended community know that SBP convo will be there every day at eight o’clock, reflecting, I suppose, the monks’ vow of Stability of Place. Interestingly, none of these people would ever have known about our daily convocation had it not been for Covid-19. They would not have this special little boost to get them started on their day. 

 So, “In the Midst of It All,” as Rev. Winstead’s song puts it so appropriately, our Saint Benedict's community, with the special addition of the new Girls’ Prep Division, has turned the pandemic experience on its head. While others are feeling alienated and separated, the pandemic restrictions have prompted us to create new ways of creating bonds, and of extending those bonds of love until they embrace the entire  globe.

In the midst of the pandemic, the Lord’s grace keeps reaching out through all those circles of community with the message of the Gospel carried in the words of our songs, “You Gotta Love People. You can’t choose who to love!” and, “Stay Up! Don’t let nothin’ get you down!” and of course, our informal pandemic motto, “In the midst of it all.” 

Christ's Idea for Convocation: The Kingdom


Saturday, April 17, 2021

YOU WILL DO GREATER WORKS THAN THESE

 

I'm presently enjoying Louis Savary's Teilhard de Chardin on the Eucharist. Chardin, you may know, was a Jesuit and a scientist who thought in terms of the ongoing evolution of all creation in our own day as heading toward a point of culmination in the future in the Universal Christ. His evolutionary perspective expands our narrow, comfortable view of the world to include the entire universe in the embrace of the Universal Christ. I'll share here some of Savary's Introduction, and hope that his words will speak to you as beautifully as they did to me.


Jesus of Nazareth once predicted that we -- those who had faith in him -- would be able to do everything he could do and more. "Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father" (john 14:12). Has this prediction proven to be true?

Yes, indeed.

The most prominent abilities of Jesus of Nazareth were huis abilities to heal illness and to cure people of mental or spiritual sickness (demonic possession). Jesus may have healed many people in one day. Today we may not be able to heal by mere touch as Jesus did. Perhaps, sometime in the future, when human consciousness has evolved, some among us may develop this ability.


Nevertheless, today, hospitals around the world, many founded by believers,
collectively heal tens of thousands of people every day. Technologies have helped develop surgical procedures and prosthetics that could never have been possible in Jesus' day, nor even a century ago. The Body of Christ on Earth evolves in its healing abilities each year as pharmaceutical laboratories develop drugs that help prevent and cure scores of physical and mental maladies. These companies have developed an arsenal of drugs to reduce pain and alleviate suffering. Today, biological science allows health-care technicians to adjust an individual's DNA by editing it, thus offering hope for a better, longer life for many. Medical technology is producing its own share of healings that would have been considered miracles a generation ago.
12

Savary goes on to list the advances in psychology and the social sciences as advancing the development of the Body of Christ, but here's the paragraph that caught my attention (the book was published in 2021): "Improvements in travel and communication make it possible for people to build and maintain friendships and families no matter where they live, thus providing another advance on how members of the Body of Christ can express love and care for each other." 13



During the past year of being locked down "remote" from one another, we've gotten accustomed communicating with one another via Zoom, Google Chat, Google Hangout, Skype. It's hard to keep track of all the platforms that keep coming out to facilitate our communicating with one another during the pandemic. When I read the paragraph above I realized that I was missing an important fact: I have been communicating with friends and acquaintances around the world at nio cost, seeing them and conversing easily in real time. Thanks to Savary and Chardin I got a deeper appreciation of the web of relationships that we humans have continued building during and because of the pandemic. The Universal Body of Christ continues to evolve.

Of course, I still pray for the day when we can share in the bread-and-wine Body of Christ, but meanwhile we can continue to take advantage of the advances in modern communications that allow us to build relationships of love and intimacy and so build up the Body of Christ in the best way we can.





 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

COVID EASTER II

 Here is the text of my sermon at the Easter Vigil last  year, April 11, 2020.  I have not changed a word of it -- the message seems to still fit. So, here is last year's Easter post:

I believe it’s safe to say that every one of us will remember this Easter for the rest of our lives. Having to celebrate the most important feast of the Christian calendar separated from our families and friends guarantees that this Easter will feel weird at best, and even somber or sad. We’re telling one another “It doesn’t feel like Easter.” It feels “hollow.”

We can’t miss the bitter irony that just at the time when the Church is celebrating the mystery of Christ’s rising gloriously triumphant and conquering the powers of death, We find ourselves in the clutches of this deadly pandemic.

Tonight of all nights we need to take seriously the question that many people of good will are posing:  “If God is supposedly all loving and also all powerful, then how can you explain the existence of this horrible pandemic? Why would a good God allow such terrible suffering?”

There are different responses to this question:

One response is frustration: Since there is no reasonable answer, I conclude that there really is no God. Since I can’t figure out why there is so much pain and evil in the world, I give up in frustration and cry out angrily,  “There is no God, and I hate him!”

Another way of reacting if there is no God is to make up your own God, and settle for some created thing that gives your life some temporary meaning: Money, power, prestige, or pleasure. People get away with this pretty often in fact. But when some overwhelming evil such as Covid-19 crashes into their lives, money or power or popularity suddenly don’t work very well.

I want to mention another response, one that religious believers too often fall back on. At times like the present, these folks are embarrassed for God,
So they try to find excuses for God’s seemingly terrible behavior. So they come up with plausible reasons why God is allowing evil: The pandemic is a punishment for the world’s sin. An angry God has finally gotten fed up with our sinfulness, and has started slapping his children around. The idea is, I guess, that if the pandemic is our fault, then this shifts the blame from the Lord and onto us. The fact that this also makes God into an angry, abusive, unforgiving and spiteful tyrant doesn’t seem to bother these pious folks.

Well, unfortunately, as we know, none of these solutions work:

We’re STUCK in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, that’s about  as evil a thing as you can imagine.

And there’s no way out.

So far this doesn’t sound like much of an Easter sermon. Let’s try looking at the gospel accounts of
the resurrection. That first Easter morning was anything but joyful and comforting. Some women go to the tomb to find that Jesus’ body is missing. Then conflicting reports start circulating about
white-robed messengers and burial clothes.

Everyone is confused, and no one knows quite what to believe at first.All they know for certain was that the tomb is empty. Imagine how frustrated you and I would be this evening if all we had to celebrate was an empty tomb!

But then, the crucial stage of the Easter story begins: The risen Lord starts appearing to his disciples. These encounters with the Risen Jesus change everything. Out of defeat has come victory! Out of death has come new life! But, and here a crucial point, the crucified and risen One was invisible to non-believers -- he could be seen only with the eyes of faith!

Now at last we’re getting somewhere with our Easter homily. We, too, can see the Risen Christ, but only with the eyes of Faith. And this is exactly why we come together tonight, to celebrate the resurrection, to shout that Jesus has conquered death!

When we train our eyes of faith on the coronavirus pandemic, we see so much more than frightening statistics, and photos of  refrigerated trucks full of corpses. As women and men of faith, we can see the Risen Lord in the midst of all this suffering and confusion on this Easter Day.

I wonder if you noticed that this evening there was no entrance  hymn. On this, the most important feast of the year. As one of my students might say, “What’s up with that?”

You may remember that the service on Good Friday ended abruptly, with the celebrant simply walking away in total silence. And then, tonight the liturgy began right where we left off on Friday afternoon: in total silence.
This is a profound Easter symbol: the two celebrations of Good Friday and Easter Sunday are blended seamlessly into one reality called the Paschal Mystery. 

The lack of an entrance hymn tonight was meant t0 remind us that just as in our own lives, Good Friday and Easter are not two independant realities, the suffering and pain of our own Good Fridays make sense only when we see them as part of the MYSTERY of Easter Sunday. And our Easter celebration this evening will make no sense at all unless we see it as part of the world’s Good Friday, as our brothers and sisters this evening are sharing in the suffering of Jesus on the cross.

Saint Augustine tells us that we are “Easter People;” and as Easter People, we are to be the Risen Lord for others. This is how the Risen One intends to appear to each of us, the way he did to Mary Magdalene that first Easter morning, when she didn’t recognize him at first.

Through you and me, Jesus wants to make himself visible to the eyes of faith: This is why something inside of us responds so warmly whenever we hear stories  of  loving  brothers and sisters going out of their way to help others in need: We recognize in those people the Risen Jesus, and we can say with the apostles, “I have seen  the Lord!”

I had that experience a couple of days ago, and I’d like to share it with you.
EMS Facebook page:
University Hospital, Newark    April 4 at 7:28 PM     Terry Hoben

I honestly don’t know where to begin. It was 10:54 this morning and Grembo was calling. He said quickly "we have a problem". Our emergency department was in trouble, staffing critically low, many patients on ventilators and more were coming in. We went back and forth and talked about what we could do to help … they needed our help. They needed us - EMS. The facebook post went out asking for help. I called the chiefs in Newark and asked for their help and they briefed our duty Medics, EMT’s, and Nurses. It was only a few minutes and the phone began to ring with many saying they would help.
The sheer number of our EMS men and women answering the call for help was staggering. It was only minutes later, and our MICU’s were moved to waiver mode and single medic initiated, our EMT’s stepped up and the system continued. Off duty nurses and paramedics raced to the ED to help. NorthSTAR landed bringing two nurses and a medic too. When I arrived our EMS team was in Tyvek, eye pro and respirator helping everyone. The scene was breathtaking, ED nurses were moved to tears, 14 EMS staff filled the ED. I can’t put to words how heart-warming and proud I was to see everyone in action and knowing the rest of our team was in the field working so hard to keep the streets together.
To all “our” Paramedics, Nurses, EMT’s, dispatchers and the Supervisors upstairs and down who answered the call for help today and showed up doing what we all know is uncomfortable and scary, dealing with this freaking horrible COVID-19. This invisible enemy that has hurt our fellow department members terribly, some fortunate to return to talk about it and others that still lay in their hospital beds under care.
We are University Hospital EMS and YOU are the best damn group of EMS professionals that have ever blessed this earth. Please stay safe and be careful out in the streets and in our Emergency Department where all of you are working right now!

What do you mean it doesn’t feel like Easter this year?
To the eyes of faith, this is what the Risen Christ looks like on Easter, 2020. Isn’t it the risen Christ who phones the elderly couple who live in the apartment downstairs and offers to go shopping for them? Isn’t it the Risen Christ who comes as a sixteen year old living in our residence hall these days, and spends hours helping in our parish food pantry because the volunteers can’t come in? Isn’t it the Risen Christ we see on television in all sorts of generous people who are finding ways of helping their brothers and sisters to get through these difficult days?

What do you mean it doesn’t feel like Easter this year?
Sisters and brothers, we are Easter People. Easter is happening all around us through Easter People like you and me.

So, at first glance, it may not seem like Easter this year. There are fewer marshmallow eggs and no big family get-togethers. But if we celebrate it as Easter people, by being the Risen Christ to one another, then I believe it’s safe to say that every one of us truly will remember this Easter as one of the best ones ever.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 3, 2021

PUTTING COVID19 IN ITS PLACE

We can't escape the fact that for the past year we've been experiencing everything in the context of the

Covid Pandemic. From planning the Olympics to practicing high school basketball, from the pandemic's dire effects on airlines and corner bodegas. 

We've grown used to (not to mention fatigued by) the pervasive presence of the coronavirus, and are reminded of it every time we put on our mask, distance ourselves from someone, or attend a meeting or a class over Zoom. And we mustn't forget the over 500,00 Americans who have died; for many of us the statistics are very real, they have names and faces 

This is our world - and it's not a pleasant picture. 


Easter, however, invites us to ask the question: "Which is the bigger reality? The Universal Christ who has conquered death, or the pandemic?" For a Christian, to think of "Easter in a time of Covid" seems to be getting things completely backwards. The background against which we experience the events of our lives is not the pandemic at all, but rather the Easter Event: By dying and rising, Christ has conquered death and has brought us with Him. This Easter Event is the central fact of our existence, of our entire universe, and provides the background, the context, the "wallpaper" against which we experience everything in our lives, whether good or bad, happy or sad, including the Covid19 pandemic and everything about it.

For a Christian, then, the challenge is to experience the pandemic in the light of the Easter mystery, to put the pandemic in its proper context. Maybe the key here is to think in terms of the "Paschal Mystery," an expression that has come up in recent posts. The paschal mystery, which is the central belief of every Christian, refers to Christ's suffering-death-resurrection as a single event, in which the three seemingly separate experiences of Christ are inseparable from one another. And, of course, this is true of or own suffering and dying: they are part of that same Paschal Mystery that always ends in victory over death.

All of the suffering that is connected with the pandemic is, then, somehow, mysteriously, a participation in the sufferings of Christ, and of his death and resurrection. 

In the light of the Paschal Mystery, all of this Covid suffering has meaning. With our limited intellects, we can't understand the meaning yet; but with the eyes of faith we can see that it's all part of God's infinitely mysterious love for each of us.