The greatest threat in our world today


Are we as concerned about our spiritual health as our physical health?


Most of us are doing all we can to limit the continued spread of the coronavirus. We are trying to be prudent and healthy, and we are striving to protect ourselves, our families, and the vulnerable. We have incorporated new habits into our lives in an effort to do our part. At times, however, we can feel overwhelmed and helpless. How many more months before our actions seem to make a difference?

Five months ago, I wrote about our human fear of things we cannot control. “We don’t know how to treat COVID-19 and there is no vaccine for it. In a society that wants to manage and control everything, this is unnerving for us. Then add to that things like quarantine or restricted movements and activities. We want to be in control.… In the end, though, we are faced with the fact that we don’t have answers to suffering and mysterious illnesses. We don’t know what our lives will look like in a few months, COVID-19 or not. We do not have control over everything.”

Sadly, we ultimately only have so much control over whether we will get sick with the coronavirus. We can take precautions and do what we can, but there will still be some of us that get sick. Tragically, some have gotten or will get very sick. Some have died or will die.

This is not to make light of it by any means. Physical suffering and death are evils and a result of sin. Just because God can bring good out of suffering, just because He has redeemed suffering, does not mean that it is good. It is evil. Physical suffering and death are tragedies.

But are they the greatest tragedies?

Certainly, that seems to be the lens through which we are told to view the world right now. In a variety of ways, we are instructed to interact with the world with the view that COVID is the greatest threat to us at this moment.

But is it?

There is a lot of anxiety and fear in the world today. Fear of illness, disease, suffering, and death.

Do we also have a fear of sin?

Looking around at society, I have seen people go to great lengths to avoid both getting coronavirus and spreading it. Are we equally worried about committing sin or causing others to commit sin?

Are we as concerned about our spiritual health as our physical health?

Naturally, I am not saying we should not try to avoid getting sick. I am not suggesting we throw caution to the wind and be irresponsible in our behavior. But are we losing sight of the greater danger? Our earthly life is quite short as compared to eternity. On which do we place greater emphasis?

As the Psalmist cheerfully reminds us: “Seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty, if we are strong; Most of them are toil and sorrow; they pass quickly, and we are gone” (Ps 90:10). What matters more? This transient life, or the life of the world to come?

I fear that we have lost sight of the end goal. Have we allowed our fear over a virus eclipse what is the greatest tragedy and the greatest good?

Over the last few months, we have all gotten very good at taking necessary precautions to protect our health and the health of others. We avoid crowds and we social distance. How often do we strive to avoid near temptations of sin? Just as we strive to protect our bodies from coming into contact with things that could make us physically ill, do we also strive to protect our souls from things that could endanger our salvation? We are eager to protect the physically vulnerable, but are we equally concerned with helping others avoid sin?

We are wearing masks and washing our hands more. Trying to teach our children good habits, we are emphasizing practices that promote hygiene and healthy living. Are we equally trying to cultivate the virtues in our lives? Have we been good examples for our children in practicing the Faith, and have we taught them how to live the Faith in a world that rejects it? We may be meticulous in our mask-wearing, but are we also fastidiously practicing prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice so that we can continue to fight sin and temptation and perform works of charity?   

Perhaps we are trying to eat healthy foods and boost our immune system. We are taking our vitamins and trying to stay healthy. Are we also concerned about receiving supernatural fuel for our souls? Have we been frequenting the sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion? Are we seeking out opportunities to nourish our prayer life?

Jesus reminds us, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna” (Mt 10:28).

Are we as concerned for our spiritual health as our physical health?

What is the greatest threat in our world today? Is it a virus? Physical suffering and death are tragedies. Sadly, they are also things that no one on this earth will avoid.

Let us not lose sight of the greater tragedy in our world today – loss of grace and separation from God. May we continue to cultivate the virtues in our lives, doing all we can to stay close to Our Savior. May we strive to avoid temptation and pray for the strength to walk through this valley of tears in the grace of God.


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About the Author

Joannie Watson

Joan Watson was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, but college and graduate school took her to Virginia, Ohio, and Rome. After graduating from Christendom College with a B.A. in History and Franciscan University with a M.A. in Theology, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the explosion of Catholic culture in the middle of the Bible Belt.

She has been blessed to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College. She is presently the Director of Adult Formation for the Diocese of Nashville. She also serves as the Associate Editor of Integrated Catholic Life.

When she’s not testing the culinary exploits of new restaurants or catching up on the latest BBC miniseries, she’s FaceTiming with her eight nephews and nieces and enjoying her role as coolest aunt. She likes gelato, bourbon, and the color orange.

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