When the reports started coming in about COVID-19 it seemed so remote, so far from our little corner of the world. And then one of my sons, a critical-care nurse at a Valley hospital, sat down and had a chat with me. He was deeply concerned about the path of destruction this disease was unleashing, and he wanted his dad and me to take it seriously.

St. Pope John Paul II leans against his crosier during Mass in New York’s Central Park in 1995. He had a habit of leaning on the staff in prayer or contemplation. (Michael Okoniewski/CNS)

That was before the suspension of public Masses, before gyms and movie theaters were shut down, before restaurants were barred from allowing patrons to dine on their premises. In short, before we entered into what seems a dystopian existence. We’ve been thrust into a battle for our survival, both physical and economic.

And while we’re called to be prudent and cautious, that doesn’t mean we should let fear paralyze us with anxiety. Let’s remember Who’s in charge here: Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He hasn’t abandoned us yet, and He never will.

At the same time, if ever there was a time for collective repentance, conversion and reparation, this is it! A society that turns from God and not only embraces evil but celebrates it has just learned how very fragile we are. This is our wake-up call, America. Let us reject secularism, consumerism, greed, violence, abortion, drugs, sexual sin, corruption and our selfish pride. Let us implore God to help us find a cure, a vaccine, an end to this mess.

How incredibly appropriate that this crisis began during Lent, a season of sacrifice and self-denial, a time when the Church asks us to draw closer to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. There are those who ask where God is in the midst of all the suffering. How can a loving God stand by seemingly idle while all of this transpires?

For those who know Christ, those kinds of questions miss the mark.

Joyce Coronel is a regular contributor to The Catholic Sun. Opinions expressed are the writers’ and not necessarily the views of The Catholic Sun or the Diocese of Phoenix.

As Fr. Richard Simon of Relevant Radio says, we can’t blame God for COVID-19. “It’s a virus and it’s doing what viruses do,” Fr. Simon noted in a recent broadcast on AM 1310. In His wisdom, God has permitted this pandemic, and we need look no further than the crucifixion and death of our Lord Jesus to see that God can draw great good from unspeakable evil.

This entire situation invites each of us to look deep within and find Him in the silence. We hear His voice and sense His presence as we’re forced to walk toward an uncertain future, trusting in Him. I thought of this days after the lockdown as I stared at the crucifix that hangs over my desk at home. It’s a silver cross similar to the one made famous by St. John Paul II. The horizontal cross beam is rather bent, and Jesus’ arms are straining, nearly vertical.

In that moment of quiet contemplation, it struck me that He bore the entire weight of all the sins that had ever been committed and that would ever be committed: from the atrocities and excesses of the Roman Empire to the horrors of Auschwitz to the depravity of the clerical sexual abuse scandal and the bitter betrayals of those who claimed to love Him, He foresaw the impact of it all and took it upon His shoulders. My sin, your sin — all the offenses of humanity were taken to that cross. The weight of this massive load was so heavy that it bent the wood as He hung there between Heaven and Earth, all to redeem us.

And on that glorious Easter morning, He rose, victorious over death, to redeem you and me and every single human person. He is Lord, and He is with us as we walk through this dark valley. He will be there on the other side, too, when this crisis comes to an end. In fact, because He is not bound by time, He’s already there, waiting for us.

Let’s keep our eyes on Him and rejoice in His love that did not reject suffering but embraced it to save us. It is in humbly accepting our own cross and leaning on Him that we will find the grace and strength to endure the difficult days ahead. It is in Him that we will rise from the ashes of COVID-19.

Joyce Coronel is a regular contributor to The Catholic Sun.