by Ken Rolheiser
COVID-19 and avoiding Hell

“Confessions have been canceled as well. God help us. If I die, I’m going to Hell,” tweeted a woman about the church closures and social distancing of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ouch! A little help is needed here. God is still in charge! We can talk to God without intermediaries, and God still loves us. The Grace of Christ’s love still streams toward us from the eternal sacrifice of the Cross. The church has not abandoned us, and Jesus has not abandoned us.

As an honest sinner I am well versed in the art of seeking forgiveness. As sinners we can draw closer to God in our free will and through God’s Grace. We need to face God and strive to move forward toward God’s love. That is a free will choice we can make.

We have left the “bright sadness” of Lent, and moved into the joy of Easter, an entrance into the glory of the Kingdom. (Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent: Journey to Pascha).

“Ask and it shall be given,” “seek and you will find,” “knock and the door shall be opened!” Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross continues to stream Grace on us. If we choose that grace we can say, “If I die I am not going to hell.”

There is much more saving news to share with the lady who tweeted, “I am going to hell.” Jesus continues to pour out graces from the Cross in the eternal sacrifice saving us all. We do not depend on sacramental confession only to save us. Turning to God includes talking to Mary and Joseph and the Saints, many of whom we know personally, since they are members of our families and communities.

Turning to God is as simple as Dismas on the cross turning to Christ and saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus will say to us, “You shall be with me in the kingdom.”

Turning to the Word daily will bless our journey towards heaven. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person …. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:56, 58).

Christ enlivens us and lives in us through the Word in our hearts and the light in our souls! “Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make a home in him.” (John 14:23).

Let us help each other through this pandemic, and that may mean feeding the hungry spiritually and providing instruction as needed. Working with the civil authorities (and they have been civil, mostly) will save many lives. Praying for God's help, be it through the intercession of Mary and the Saints, is also part of our job.

And helping where we can, though some of us are not allowed to volunteer on the front lines because of our age. But all of us can encourage and communicate with those who are lonely and confused. And all of us can continue to pray to Mary and Joseph and the Saints to intercede for us.

If I die from COVID-19 I will have grown closer to God because of this present journey. I have drawn closer to God during this time of isolation from the church services. The Word sustains me, and prayer sustains me.

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