This is the million-dollar question that has been asked around the globe in the last five to seven months since the advent of the most discussed pandemic affecting our world called coronavirus. It the question of WHERE IS GOD IN THE MIDST OF COVID-19? The Coronavirus 2019 also known as Covid-19, on the 31st December 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of an outbreak of respiratory disease in china affecting the city of Wuhan in Hubei province.
The cause of it has been identified as due to a newly known coronavirus called SARS-cov-2. The infection is formally called ‘coronavirus disease (COVID-19). As of September 1st 2020, the World Health Organisation reported that the virus was in 213 countries and territories around the world and in 2 of the international conveyances. Between December 31st 2019 and September 1st 2020, 25,509,135 cases of Covid-19 have been reported with 850,902 deaths in accordance with the with the applied case definitions and testing strategies in the affected countries.
Coronavirus has caused a lot of tensions, stiffness, strain, pressures, fear, loss of jobs and a number of deaths. Due to these predicaments, we are now driven to question God’s existence. This question about God’s presence among us is due to the havoc caused by the impacts of the coronavirus all over the world. Believers and none believers are questioning the existence of God in situations such as Covid-19. For my part, all these happenings and questionings around me have instigated in me the quest for God all the more. I want to trust also that many believers and none- believers were also searching for God and for solution to these predicaments during these ‘lock down’ periods.
I was trying to imagine the world in a search party to find God; searching for Him as though He, God was lost or has gone AWOL. Could what we (I) seek be our (my) very centre? Our (my) hearts? I used to love the mirage as a young girl. I guess, I still do. I would try to go after it, to reach it but never did. However, a mirage is not an optical illusion. It is not a mental distortion. Not the product of a hallucination. It has the same reality as the image of an object in a mirror. Our search for God is, perhaps, like that of a girl going after a mirage. They both have that feeling of already within grasps but not yet. And sometimes, this is more frustrating for the adult who seek the assurance of finding. And not the thrill from seeking. Did any of you also play the hide and seek as a child? The thrill was in the hiding, for one and in the seeking, for the other. Each time there was a find, the two switch the roles as the hide and seek continues until mother calls. As for the hide and seek, so too for the girl going after the mirage. The excitement for a child is, in the child following the mirage. What does she/he find? Herself/Himself! It is she/he following. Being led. It is him/her gaining perspectives. I was not just searching for the whereabouts of God in this situation. I also wanted to know what He was actually doing to calm the frightening situation or even put and end to it. As I searched and waited, God indeed spoke to me in a way that changed my life and gave me a new perception. I felt and experienced the healing touch of God and His consolation over my life. One might want to know how this happened and how I experienced God.
Prior to the escalation of the virus, in the early new year of 2020, I experienced the death of two of my family members, my brother Chris and my maternal uncle Moses, in the last month of the year 2019. These died within three days of each other. Eternal rest grant unto them oh Lord, and let your perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. It was not an easy experience for me and especially that it all happened in just three days of each other. I was heartbroken during this period. I also had to be in school and do my school work. Imagine the incongruous of being in mourning and yet having to meet up with all the school work and personal programs away from my country and family. It was painful and I had to struggle within my heart to reconcile all those emotions.
Now, let us return to what God did to me and with me during my period of mourning. Schools were closed on account of the pandemic. There were no physical meetings or learning in our school. All our lectures and activities were done on line from home. There were restrictions in movements and less physical involvement with other people. This gave me the opportunity to recollect all the experiences, talk to God about it, read some good and inspiring spiritual books, and have more time for myself. One such books I read was entitled From the Angels’ Blackboard by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. That book helped me to understand our human condition and God’s great love for me even in my state of mourning. God’s love is portrayed in all His imperfect and fragile daughters and sons. From this book I was able to hear the consoling voice of God and feel his healing touch upon my soul. That book drew me to pray more. I felt consoled each day I talked to Jesus about my pains and the loss of my dear ones. I reflected more on my situation. I became more aware of the individual persons God was also using to speak healing and consolation to my life. There were some days when I thanked God instead of crying and wallowing in pain. You know what? I Think that, sometimes we just need to pray to God in these words: “Dear Lord, please, slow me down”. Yes, there are moments in our lives when all we might need, is to slow down so that we can think about the happenings in our lives and hear what God w whispering to us. Such moments can bring about positive transformation in someone and new insight in our lives.
As I reflected upon my loss, I thanked God because it was through the ‘Lock down’ brought about by the coronavirus pandemic that somehow put a stop or rather decelerate the many activities happening around and within me. It was by staying and working from home, that I was able to pause, reflect and begin to see God’s hand in all these. Probably, if it was not for the providence of the coronavirus pandemic that slowed down all school activities at that point for me, I may not have been able to see God in that painful experience I had. I understand that when anyone is clouded with pains and hurts such as a loss of a loved one, that person, can hardly see God in that and even ask Him why they have to go through such loss and pain.
The words of St. Ignatius of Loyola “Finding God in All Things” whose Spirituality we follow, practice and live as Religious Sisters of charity became more alive and meaningful for me as an individual who has been formed in that understanding and background. I felt the challenge and the invitation to encounter God in all things, witnessing to the joy of the Gospel. We go forth into the world as contemplatives in action, discerning God’s desire for our lives here now and acting on God’s invitation. I felt the invitation to become more, a woman for and with others. I want to be able to hear the cry of the earth, as well as that of the poor and respond to them not to just dwell on my pain. Everything you and I do; we should do all for the greater glory of God and for the common good.
I recognise that inadvertent situation such as COVID-19 may cloud and blind us from seeing the good God is doing in our in our world and more explicitly, in our lives. We were more in touch and could see evidently the damages, harms and negative effects of the virus more than the Grace coming out of it. What lessons have you learned from the presence of the coronavirus pandemic living with us? Did you manage to discover what God wanted to show you? I have learned personally from the experience of this virus, the importance of pausing, reflecting and listening to what God is trying to communicate to me every day of my life through the different and complicated situations happening around my environment and in my own life. God never stops communicating with us and it seems that he has become even more active at such moments when things are not going well with us and seems unclear. I hope each one is able to identify, find and appreciate what God has done for them, for their community as a result of the presence this virus.
Our spirituality of finding God in all things is grounded in the conviction that God is always active in our lives and in our world. The spiritual path laid out for us, helps us to discern God’s presence. This active presence of God with us is again established in the book of the Acts of the “Apostles 17:27-28; God is not far from us since it is through Him, we live, move and have our being. In all things, learn to be ever grateful to Him for his presence with you. There is that urge within me that wants to call coronavirus as my ‘sister’,’ brother or ‘mother ‘the same way St. Francis of Assisi would refer to death as ‘Sister Death’ in his canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon”. Again, this is captured in the words of our Holy Mother Venerable Mary Aikenhead on the 14th of February in which she says and I quote “May we be ever ready to receive all losses and crosses with a willing heart and gratitude for all that our good God sends us” (9th June, 1834). End of quotes. May we learn to be attentive to the beauty, presence, and power of God in everything. God is present in all things and beings. Therefore, by approaching all situations in life with the purest intentions, we truly allow ourselves to seek and find God in all things even in the midst of coronavirus pandemic.
Like I alluded earlier on, the excitement for a child who plays the hide and seek game, is in the hiding for one and in the seeking for the other. So too for the happiness for the girl going after the mirage is in the child following the mirage and eventually the child finds herself/himself and gains new insights. So too, the joy of searching for God is in the SEARCH. And the bonus is that we gain new perspectives on the go. We gain clarity. Hence, the FINDING appears to me as a continuous process of constantly gaining and changing perspectives on ourselves, and our world filled with the love of the Lord. The search is for the self; image of God. We find the truth of our own hearts. We find the a wiser, smarter us who becomes enlightened by the various experiences of life and becomes better prepared for even more life adventures. But before then, while the crises last, we feel lost. We are afraid to admit that we are lost. That our centre is shaken. So, we project to God and ask WHERE are You, God. When we ought to ask where am I in all these? Whare is my heart in all these? Lost? Confused? Agitated? Etc.
When we no longer recognise the image of God that we are, we question: where are you? As though should God appear before our eyes in all His splendour, we could recognise Him, when we could not even recognise our own centre which is the image, and likeness of God. Finding ourselves, we come to find out that God is always there and it was us not home to ourselves and the reality of His presence.
Sr. Rosemary Agada.