God’s Grace In A Testing Time: Covid-19 and Lent

Coronavirus, or Covid-19, as it has come to be knows, has almost taken over our lives here in Ireland this week, and from what I read in the media the same is true for a large part of the world. It started off as a news item, almost a curiosity, then the reports became a little more serious and the news bulletins more frequent and now it is officially a pandemic. It is dangerous, highly contagious and a risk to all. And we react. It Italy there has been a national lock-down in place and the list of restrictions in other countries is increasing by the day. Here in Ireland there are shortages in the food-markets, I went shopping and couldn’t get porridge! There is a palpable sense of a growing disquiet and nervousness among people.
In the midst of all this we are in the Season of Lent; a time of grace, or renewal, and a time to be aware of the workings of God’s grace and of our own experience of grace. Lent reminds us that we all have experience of grace; moments in which we have been aware of having being touched by God’s life and love.
The Gospel readings on Sundays 1 and 2 of Lent are indicators of the varied nature of the experience of grace. We see that the moments of grace can be desert times, occasions of testing, of dryness, of hardship and of temptation, the temptation to turn a different way from the road of faith, of hope and of charity. When we manage to hold fast and not give up in these testing times we may, like Jesus, be consoled by grace and strengthened.
The Second Sunday of Lent presents a different scene, that of transfiguration, when like Peter, James and John, we get a glimpse of the glory of God, and they can be moments of joy and happiness, of awe and reverence, of beauty and wonder, moments in which we ‘know’ the consolation of grace.
Lent reminds us to take stock, to reflect on these experiences of grace and to draw strength from them. As I grow older the awareness increases that grace, God’s life in us, shows up in ever-more varied forms and at very different moments in the path of life; and the conviction that it is in and through Jesus Christ, tempted, tested and weak in the desert and transformed and glorious on the Mount of Transfiguration, that grace is both given and received.
The Covid-19 pandemic is a testing time, a scary time for some, creating great uncertainty and worry on many fronts; but perhaps we will come to sense God’s grace present and active in this pandemic, and perhaps it will be in what the pandemic draws out of us and others and in what we will be forced to examine about ourselves, our interaction with others and our commitment to collaborating with others to create as safe an environment as possible.