“Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart.”

Diary of St Faustina, para.1588

I remember at the time of the attacks on the World Trade Centre, I wondered what good we would see following after such an atrocious act of evil. I had no doubt that good would follow, it was just a question of when, and of what particular forms it would take. Good always follows in the wake of terrible things, and so it was on that occasion – a great many people gave themselves heroically in the service of others; many gave their lives, such as the firefighters who entered the Twin Towers, and many died later because they continuously forgot themselves in order to serve the needs of others.

Good always follows evil, and for two reasons.

Firstly, God makes use of all situations and circumstances for His own purposes; we used to say that ‘God writes straight with crooked lines’, and this captured the truth well, I think. While He allows all of us perfect freedom to do as we please, He always has broader vision than we do. We tend to see only the present moment, while He sees very far ahead. And so He knows how to bring light out of even the deepest darkness.

Secondly, human beings are generally good by nature. Because of this, we tend to respond well to adversity and to terrible situations. Indeed, it is often only in these most awful moments that our deepest beauty becomes apparent. Needless to say, this too is the grace of God at work – remember what I said a moment ago about the Lord planning ahead.

With regard to the present global pandemic, the Lord has foreseen all this, too. His preparations were already well laid, whilst always respecting our individual freedom. And yet, every grace we could possibly need for these days, He has already granted well in advance.

In this current pandemic, we all have a very simple choice.

We can think of ourselves, of what we want, of getting what we want, of our ‘rights’ – and in this way remain focussed on self. Or, we can put our own needs to the side, consider the needs of others and our responsibilities toward them, and spend ourselves in their service. Often, this path will be lived out in numerous little ways, but it will occasionally take a greater form and the personal cost may be high. But it will be worth it.

Two paths from which to choose, two quite different consequences, dependent upon our choice.

And that is why the Lord respects our free will.