What Coronavirus Covid-19 vaccine?
Take courage; it is I. Do not be afraid! Mt 14:27
In these times of calamity we are all afraid. The uncertainty of the future stands out like a boulder on our horizon… some people are already facing poverty and we all had to revise our plans. The solution to everything, the object of desire, the savior of the world, seems to be a cure for this disease, the coveted Coronavirus vaccine. Everyone, as is understandable, pray that this disease will be defeated and this terrible period will end.
Everything that is happening looks tremendously like a storm, the storm on the Sea of Galilee that Pope Francis has chosen for his meditation, listened to by millions of people connected with the media and by flocks of birds, the only spectators in St. Peter’s Square.
This is the same storm that the Apostles experienced, the storm that no man, after all, could ever escape. In the Gospels there are 2 storms. In one the boat is sinking and is covered by the waves and Jesus rebukes the Apostles: “Why are you fearful, O you little in faith?” (Mt 8).
In the other one Jesus sends the disciples forward on the boat and reaches them walking on the waters, saying to his disciples “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid!“, and Matthew reports the moment when Peter gets off the boat and walks on the waters and the Lord says to him as he is sinking in fear: “Little of faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt 14).
Each of us doubted and was afraid a lot of times. Our fears are sometimes unreasonable, but other times they are more than understandable. It is unreasonable, for example, to fear God as a severe being…which leads us to bury the talent we have received for fear of making mistakes. Jesus urges us to fight against fear, both the unreasonable and the reasonable fear. Fear makes us sick and paralyzes us, we waste a lot of time and fantasize about what might happen (but probably never will), without focusing on what is really within our reach and we can do good and beautiful today. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father. But of you, also, the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows!” (Mt 10) …
The questions that stir in everyone’s heart in these moments are distressing and full of fear: what will happen? How long will this last? Will the people I love and myself manage to survive? Will we have enough to live, or will all our dreams be shattered? Will we still be able to go to Mass or enjoy a nice walk, a trip, a movie night, a sports event, a concert, a simple visit to our friends and family? All the “entertainment” in which we sought an escape from the dramas of existence has suddenly vanished, leaving us alone with “the unbearable heaviness of being”.
Despite all the Master’s recommendations not to be afraid when “they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them… they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid” (Mk 10), and we too, we must admit, are no better than them… Jesus exhorts us to faith and to overcome our fears even when everything seems to collapse and the worst is now inevitable. Each one of us can ask God to increase his faith, then we will no longer be so easily upset by foolish fears and not even by the most reasonable ones. We will continue to experience fear, but in a different way.
Yet Jesus does not ask us to become supermen. Jesus looked realistically at us and prophesied that in the last times “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people will be fainting from fear and from the expectation of what is coming on the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to happen, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21).
And at the hour of his perfect storm even Jesus “began to be sorrowful and agonized” (Mk 14), “in his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Lk 22). Sweating blood, doctors say, occurs only in an extreme experience of anguish and fear, the most extreme that a man can sustain. Why did Jesus exhort us so much not to be afraid, if he himself experienced anguish and fear???
Because He wants us to be happy, but He also knows very well that there are fears that no one, not even the Son of God, can avoid. There will be moments in life when by Grace we manage to be less fearful and even to overcome many of our fears. But the perfect storm comes for everyone: then the Lord does not ask us for the impossible, that is not to be afraid, but to live that fear in a new way, keeping in our heart the light of faith and the warmth of hope, in the certainty that “also the hairs of our head are all numbered“.
Sooner or later this period will pass, and then, even if we will finally be vaccinated against the Coronavirus, we will not have been able to overcome our fears. We will go back to being fearful and frightened again for the next virus or the next war or economic crisis or a tiny mosquito that prevents us from sleeping or yet another dramatic event that will happen in our lives, giving us the appointment to the next “perfect storm”.
We need the vaccine for our fears, the real one, the one that lasts forever. It’s foolish to remain so at the mercy of the waves for the rest of our lives, it’s time to believe now in Jesus’ words “Take courage; it is I. Do not be afraid!…even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows…And, behold, I am with you all the days, until the consummation of the world“.
We need a ventilator with oxygen so as not to die suffocated by our fears of today and tomorrow. “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage – I have conquered the world!” (John 16). When the hour of inevitable fear and anguish comes, we will be able to live it in the certainty that God leads and protects our lives and human history. We will be afraid, we will also sweat blood perhaps, and we will suffer again, but the light of divine warmth can never be extinguished in our hearts by no virus, no war, no poverty, no dramatic event, no fear.