COVID-19 & The Great Commission

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20).

Did Jesus add to his clear instructions about making disciples of all nations some clause surrounding pandemics or plagues? He must have said “…unless there is a pandemic, then quarantine yourself until there is no possibility of catching the virus?” Wasn’t leprosy a rampant sickness in his day? Surely, He told them to make disciples of those who weren’t lepers. No, he didn’t. So how are we to respond to the great commission in light of the times we live?

This is a very good question and, one, which I have been pondering these past few days of quarantine myself. I am in full-time ministry and, yet, I sit at home, obediently following the instructions of the CDC, WHO and my President. Prior to ending another day of social distance, I read of the 6 Italian priests who died ministering to those with COVID-19 in Italy this past week. I whispered to my wife, as I closed my eyes for the night, “Those priests will one day be recognized as saints in our Church you know.” They gave their lives for those suffering from the coronavirus. They ministered to the end. They loved their flock enough to sacrifice their own lives so that those who were under their care spiritually would not be without the sacraments and it cost them their lives. They fulfilled their vocation and have earned an eternal reward in heaven.

Doesn’t that inspire you? It does for me. Still, I am not an ordained Catholic priest or deacon. It is not my job to minister the sacraments like it is for a priest or deacon. I am a husband, father of 7 children and a lay Catholic evangelist who is sitting in absolute amazement of the world’s confusion and local hysteria at the grocery store.

God has given me gifts and one of those is prudence–right reason in action. This tricky cardinal virtue of prudence. It is a virtue that all must call upon as we discern our next steps professionally, socially, and, yes, even spiritually.

So what is the prudent thing to do for us as we seek to fulfill God’s holy will in our lives and at the same time be obedient to the Kingdom work that He has summoned each of us towards with His great commission?

Well, first, obedience is a virtue that we must consider in these times. Many of us struggle with obedience to authority. I know I do at times. Perhaps it not Almighty God’s authority, but earthly authority we resent. Perhaps we struggle with our bosses direction and, now, we wrestle with the freedom restrictions that are being put on us. “Do I really have to do that?”, we might say to ourselves with the latest admonition from our elected government leaders. There would be great graces won by exercising the obedience that our President and health officials are asking of us.

Secondly, we need to exercise sacrificial love for others by not submitting to our own selfish desires. That may mean not traveling for spring break or getting together with friends during this downtime or canceling an important trip or event for our ministry.

Thirdly, we must exercise great trust in the Lord’s provision for His people. The Lord is allowing this to take place in our world for a reason and it is not up to us know the “why” behind the “what”. We may question and further reflect on how a good God would allow such, but we need only look to the past to see that this is not the first time such things have befallen our earthly dwelling place.

Okay, so at last to the great commission question. We must be open to the creative ways in which God is allowing us to be his instruments for discipleship. For instance, I was just invited to do a virtual men’s conference due to the fact that many men’s conferences are being cancelled around the country. That is one way to fulfill the commission in these times. We might also consider taking up pen and paper and writing letters again to those we love and those, more importantly, we have forgotten to show love during this time.

Have we forgotten that it is still the Lenten season? What other sacrifices will this quarantined state of existence afford us? Seriously, think and pray on it.

As a ministry leader, I am left to discern how our apostolic mission at TKM, Inc. can be a catalyst for hope, healing and further virtue development. Blogging is one means by which I hope to fulfill my call this day. I wonder what the Lord will have for me and my family this evening? Family rosary has become a standardized practice for me and my children this year. We are beefing up the prayers for the world and those who are fearful of lost income and filled with anxiety. Perhaps consider a phone call, text or email to those whom we know are most anxious at this time.

Finally, hold onto sacred scripture for much consolation in these times. I have been grasping at 1 John 4:18 particularly these days. Perfect love will indeed cast out all fear. So have no fear what the Lord is asking of you and allow Jesus’s perfect love to fill you with great confidence and courage in these times.

Especially, work on your struggles with obedience. Take your calling to prayer and ask God to grant you wisdom and clarity as to your next move both in the home as you serve your family and fulfill your professional duties.

Be safe. Be cautiously courageous. And trust that the Lord will provide you what you need both today, tomorrow and in the future.

Your discerning brother in Christ,

Mark Houck