A Ruse by Any Other Name…
St. Mark’s Corner
For me personally and comparatively, living though the pandemic has been rather easy. I wore my mask, got my vaccines, and received my booster and adhered to the recommendations and advice of the scientific and medically learned.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I had a few episodes along the way. And I experienced my fair share of being annoyed and angry; frustrated and infuriated; exhausted and exasperated. But it wasn’t because of the pandemic in terms of the disease. The virus. I didn’t get sick myself, nor did Jill or my boys. And as I fully acknowledge that there but for the grace of God go I, was immune personally from through the grief and sorrow that the friends and family of the nearly 6 million people who died because of Covid worldwide. Everyone that I knew who contracted Covid recovered.
However, what affect me most, as I said, wasn’t the pandemic itself, but what came along with the pandemic. The peripheral elements. The extracurricular. The blaming and scapegoating. The arguing and harassing. The accusations, insinuations, and incriminations. The cultural disconnect and civil unrest. The political discord and economic downturn. The Antisemitism, xenophobia, fascism, authoritarianism, terrorism. War, genocide, mass shootings. Hate, wickedness, malice, deceit, evil. Of course, you can make the case that these things weren’t caused by this “covid” pandemic. They have been going on for a lot longer than just dating back to late November 2019. But I would argue that these things were amplified and exacerbated by the annoyance, anger, frustration, infuriation, exhaustion, and exasperation felt because of Covid.
Viruses strike hardest when the immune system is weakened or compromised. You don’t get a cold from spending two hours in the cold and wind and rain without a jacket, despite what my Nana used to say. It is the fact that your body is enfeebled, and your immune system debilitated that makes you susceptible to getting sick.
To the same extent, Evil strikes hardest when our conscience is weakened or in decline.
It is interesting to note that two Sundays ago, the Gospel reading was the detailing of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Contrary to popular interpretation, the Gospel did not say that Jesus was tempted during his 40 days of fasting. Rather, after his 40 days of fasting. Both St. Luke and St. Matthew recount the temptation story by indicating that after Jesus had fasted, he was hungry and then the devil came to him and said…
Well of course this makes sense. You don’t try to tempt someone when they still have all their wits about them. While they still have their resolve, their resolution, their perseverance. Instead, you wait. You prolong. You delay. You calculate. You ware down. Evil is a long game that shouldn’t be rushed in order to achieve its most maximum effect. When someone is worn down, it is easier for them to sin. Sinning is the short cut as opposed to taking the more righteous road. It is cutting corners to make things fit into a space it doesn’t belong. It is the means of justifying the end. It is always moving to stay one step ahead of repentance. Ever shifting, ever adapting, ever mutating to stay alive. If sin were to ever stay in its simplest, unadulterated base form, it can be easily identified for what it is, targeted, and eventually, it can be destroyed.
Let us not forget that there were two thieves who were crucified along with Jesus. Gestas to Jesus’ left and Dismas to Jesus’ right. These two thieves represented all the sins committed throughout the ages. The apple. Cain and Abel. Moses killing the Egyptian. King David’s coveting, adultery, stealing, lying and murder. Judas’ kiss. Peter denying Christ.
And what happened: Gestas, whose name means to complain or to moan, did just that. He said to Jesus, mockingly, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” Weakened, beatdown, hanging on a cross, facing certain damnation, he continued to sin because being righteous in that moment was too hard. But Dismas, whose name means sunset or to the west; weakened, beatdown, hanging on his cross as well was able to gather his strength and rebuked Gestas. He asked Jesus to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Dismas recognized his sins. Acknowledged them and repented for them. Even going as far as saying his crucifixion was a just punishment according to his crime. It was at that moment his sins were forgiven. Killed. Gestas’ sins continued to consume him. Even on his cross where he had nothing to lose if he repented. If he was sincere, he would go to heaven with Jesus. But if he were saying it just to say it; to see what he might be able to get our out; he was already damned so what’s another sin in top of all the others? But instead of being with Jesus in paradise as Dismas would be, he would be cast to hell, which, I am sure, he continues to complain and moan to this day.
To quote the French poet Charles Pierre Baudelaire, “One of the artifices of Satan is, to induce men to believe that he does not exist”. I guess you could say the same thing regarding those who pontificated that Covid wasn’t anything to worry about. Same as a cold. Nothing will happen. Mask do nothing. Vaccines will turn you into brainwashed, indoctrinated, complicit zombies. To this, I would say that the Covid pandemic, while real and true and destructive and devastating in its own right as a disease, has also served as a great masquerade to distract us from the pandemic that has been in existence since the advent of humanity. The real existential virus, the real consequential disease, isn’t covid. It is sin. And to this, Jesus; his love, his mercy, his grace, and his blessing are the masks, vaccinations, boosters, and advice from the scientific and medically learned we all desperately need to protect us from being infected. Or if infected, to be cured. The more we use these tools; the more we turn to Jesus and follow Jesus and inject Jesus into our spiritual blood stream, the easier it will be to live through and survive this pandemic of sin.