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Deacon-structing the COVID Spring, Part 3: Bless the Lord!

Deacon Pedro

Monday, June 29, 2020

An early Christian representation of the story of the three youths in the fiery furnace from the Book of Daniel. From the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome.
These last months have been a difficult time for many of us. But it’s hard to deny that it has also been a time of learning. We have seen so many inspiring and deep messages, and so I am dedicating some space this summer to writing about lessons from our Faith that I’ve learned during this COVID Spring.
Two weeks ago, we looked at why I am calling this time the COVID Spring and why this has been a time to cultivate hope. Last week, we looked at how this has been a time for making all things new.
This week, I’d like to share a lesson that was especially moving for me.
Three months ago, as this crisis began, I started paying extra attention to the Psalms from our daily Mass readings. I began posting a short line from the daily Psalm every day on my Instagram feed. One of these was:
In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world (John 13:33).
During times of trouble we have to always remember that the battle has been won. Jesus Christ has already conquered. This is just the cleanup operation.
All Creation, Bless the Lord!
Something else I do every day is Morning and Evening Prayer. Those of you who pray the Liturgy of the Hours know that occasionally, especially on feast days and solemnities, in the morning we pray with the words of the Canticle of Daniel – also known as the Canticle of the Three Youths.
This is the song that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego sang while in the burning furnace when they were thrown in there for refusing to worship the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected (see Daniel 3).
The Canticle is a song of blessing and praise where all creatures bless the Lord:
Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord; Praise and exalt him above all forever.
Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord; You heavens, bless the Lord;
All you waters above the heavens, bless the Lord. All you hosts of the Lord; bless the Lord.
Sun and moon, bless the Lord; Stars of heaven, bless the Lord.... (Daniel 3: 57-63)
Further down it continues:
Seas and rivers, bless the Lord.
You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord;
All you birds of the air, bless the Lord.
All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;
Praise and exalt him above all forever... (Daniel 3: 78-81)
I’ve always found it beautiful to acknowledge that all creation, by the mere fact of being created, blesses the Lord.
Sometimes, if I am praying it outside, as I see the little visitors to my backyard, I will add a few lines myself: squirrels and chipmunks, bless the Lord; cardinals and robins, bless the Lord....
One day during the week of Easter (when we pray this canticle every day), it occurred to me that viruses are also part of God’s creation. Does that mean that God created the coronavirus? Does that mean that all viruses bless the Lord?
St. Ignatius taught that everything that comes from God is gift. Everything that is created by God is gift, and we know from the Book of Genesis that when God creates something, He sees that it is good (see Genesis 1). Creation is good, not because it is useful or because it has purpose; Creation is intrinsically good because it is created by God (yes, even mosquitoes).
And so, the next time I had to pray the Canticle of Daniel, I added an extra line as I prayed for all the people who are sick, for those who’ve died, those who’ve lost loves ones, for those who’ve lost their jobs and who are suffering greatly because of this virus:
All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;
All viruses and bacteria bless the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever.
God is in Control
There are two other scripture passages that we read occasionally during Morning or Evening Prayer. One of them is from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah who contemplates the majesty of God:
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
or weighed the mountains on the scales
and the hills in a balance?
Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are regarded as dust on the scales;
he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
(See Isaiah 40:10-17)
The other passage is from Psalm 95. Those who pray the Office of Readings will pray this Invitatory Psalm every day:
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land. (Psalm 95:4-5)
God is God. He is in charge. He is in control. He has cupped the waters of the sea in His hand. He can blow away a mountain as if it was mere dust. If He created viruses and bacteria, they must have purpose, and He has rule over them.
If the coronavirus blesses God by doing what it is meant to do, then we have to trust that the Lord is the “Great God above all other gods” (Psalm 95:3) and that "He is our God, we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care" (Psalm 95:7). We have to trust that “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11).
And we should "bow down in worship" and "kneel before the Lord our Maker"(Psalm 95:6).
All creation, including the coronavirus, bless the Lord!
Remember to write and tell me what lessons you have been learning during this time, and come back next week for a few more Faith lessons about Lent, the desert, listening, and trust that we are learning during this COVID Spring.

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: [email protected]

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