Mindful of admonitions about Social Distancing, I looked out of my garden and ascertained that I could get to the large open space a hundred yards away without going anywhere near a human being at all ... let alone within two yards. I made the dash in safely; and started to walk through a part-time cow-field.
He came up behind me quite unheard: not, sadly, a friendly bull, but a jogger. In this big open empty space, acres in which he could gambol and frolic, the young man swept past me within inches of my right elbow. With a spasm of irritation, I swerved out of the 'wake' of his 'droplets' and pursued a different trajectory.
I think, for many people, coronavirus is some tedious background noise which they barely hear. Paradoxically, this chap probably sees his jogging as 'healthy', yet ...
But should I have worried, still less felt my (only too shamefully characteristic) irritation? Should I not have been prepared, with resignation, simply to "accept God's will"?
Well, perhaps. But I'm not sure. On Thursday, the Solemnity of S Joseph coincided with the beata solemnitas (so described!) of Ss Cosmas and Damian, the Silverless Physicians whose cultus so graciously unites both East and West. Many brother priests may have read the Gospel of the Mass of those twin popular health-workers and martyrs as the Last Gospel of the Mass of S Joseph. In it, we have the account of S Peter's Mother-in-law (penthera) being cured of her fever (puretos); we hear about the crowds who came to the Lord be healed ... and were not turned away. We are, surely, hardwired by a beneficent Creator to seek our physical health as a licit and attainable good. Indeed, loving care of our own bodies is a Christian duty.
But bodily 'health' is not an ultimate and overriding good.
The period towards the end of the 500s had seen a Roman plague which took off S Gregory's papal predecessor Pelagius with many of his flock ... as well as other catastrophes such as the murderous incursions of the Lombards ... who are now back in our News! The woes of this period undoubtedly left their mark on the liturgies of the 'Gesima' Sundays and, I suspect, of Lent itself. And in these liturgical formularies, we constantly hear the refrain, taken from the Law the Prophets and the Writings: we are being justly afflicted for our iniquities, have mercy upon us. The Church's teaching appears to be communitarian rather than individualistic. What was true of ancient Israel is true of today: as a community we have sinned; as a community we are being punished.
This, in my opinion, is the teaching which we need and which we are given. I see no point in curious questions about how a 'loving God' can 'allow' such things. Ultimately, I feel, such demands imply an anthropomorphic Deity imagined as a kindly old gent or gentess who doesn't want anybody ever to feel miserable.We should cease cataphatic demands for explanations; and attempt to be a bit more apophatic.
Meanwhile, with the Holy People of God now banned in many places from the August Sacrifice, I sense a particular personal involvement, as I offer that Sacrifice, in the burdens, desires, and prayers of millions of lay people. We are not physically together, but the Victim which lies upon my paten is your Victim too. Today, tomorrow, and for as long as God gives me to offer It.
May God bless and keep all of you ... all of us.