Lent, Coronavirus, and the Spirituality of Suffering

A devout Christian is ready for anything, including coronavirus.

And I don’t mean by that statement that he has a stockpile of toilet paper and tuna fish. What I do mean is that the Christian is spiritually prepared. And Lent is a season of preparation. Many say that it is a preparation for Easter, and that’s true. But Easter represents the crown of eternal life, and no crown can be won except by a contest or trial. So, more immediately, Lent is a preparation for the cross.

What makes me so smart, you might ask? This.

Introduction to the Office of Readings

It’s the Office of Readings, a subdivision of the Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Hours, which priests are obligated to pray every day. The Office of Readings consists primarily of two readings, the first from the Bible, the second usually from a saint. Here is a brief excerpt from the readings for the first Sunday of Lent. It is taken from a commentary on the Psalms by St. Augustine:

Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations.

“One of you is about to betray me.”

This reading from Augustine is just perfect to kick off Lent, as it was clearly intended to do, being situated among the very first readings of the season. It points us to the end of the season and the climactic scenes of the Last Supper when Jesus makes the unsettling declaration that one of his chosen Apostles would betray Him.

We all know how the story goes. All the Apostles begin to wonder out loud who the betrayer is, and Peter stands up to declare his invincible loyalty, whereupon Jesus corrects him:

 “And Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.'”

Mk. 14: 30, RSV

The Agony in the Garden

In the Gospel of Mark, the scene changes immediately to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus attempts to prepare Peter for the baptism of fire that he is about to enter into. But to no avail:

And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.'”

Mk. 14: 37–38, RSV

Peter’s Fall

Well, we know how it all goes down. Peter continues to sleep rather than pray, and, not surprisingly, he later succumbs to the temptation of fear and denies Jesus. The clear implication of the story was that Peter’s fall was avoidable, had the Apostle spiritually prepared himself beforehand.

But the other lesson of Peter’s fall is that we really don’t know how we will behave in a crisis. Peter was sure that he would never betray Jesus, but he was wrong. It was in the trial itself that Peter learned the truth about himself and his lack of spiritual preparedness. It’s just like Augustine said:

No one knows himself except through trial. . . .

St. Augustine

Lent is our opportunity to spiritually prepare ourselves. We would do well to follow Christ’s advice to Peter and pray more. Here are some suggestions to give your prayer life a boost:

  • The Scriptural Rosary
  • The Stations of the Cross
  • The Office of Readings or some other part of the Divine Office

You can also subscribe to Magnificat. It includes some brief elements of the Divine Office. Hopefully, with good spiritual preparation, we can set a good example during these difficult days. Below, I offer some examples, both positive and negative. Stay well! Pax Christi. JG

The Agony at Costco

“If you have a 1,000 rolls of toilet paper and your neighbor has none . . .”

Grace in the Midst of Suffering

2 thoughts on “Lent, Coronavirus, and the Spirituality of Suffering

  1. John P Glackin

    The pandemic is a hoax. We all need to atone for missing public Mass, giving a pinch of incense to Ceaser by wearing the demonic masks and helping the Democrats steal the election.

  2. Pingback: TVESDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

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