It was one year ago yesterday – April 15th, 2019– that Notre Dame cathedral, built over a century between 1160 and 1260, and has stood ever since, burned, not down, but perhaps up, as its roof, rafters and spire were destroyed by a mysterious fire as Holy Week began. There were no Paschal celebrations in the cathedral, a prelude of the universal suppression of the public celebration of Easter in 2020, due to the insidious and even more mysterious virus stalking the world.
Nothing happens outside of God’s providence, and, in some way of God’s will, even though He permits the free actions of angels and men in fulfilling that providence. There is something symbolic in the destruction of the cathedral last year, as there was, even more vividly, in its desecration during the French Revolution, the bitter fruits of which are still all around us.
As Pope John Paul II declared in Salvifici Doloris, although we cannot often connect any given calamity with any given moral transgression (although some are rather obvious, like the loss of life in murder and suicide), there is, nevertheless, “at the basis of human suffering, there is a complex involvement with sin”. God leads us to heaven by various ways and means, some pleasant and joyful – friendships, marriages, laughter, food, romance, beer and fine red wine – and others not so – disease, fatigue, the drudgery of work, rejection, bereavement, separation, old age – and these are all necessary to detach us from this life, from our over-attachment to created things, from our not giving ‘all’ to God. For our God is a jealous God, of His people, of their souls, Whom He desires – nay, wills – to be with Him forever in paradise.
Hence, “the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights”. We might also use the verb ‘chastises’ – as even more vivid, for such manifest as chastisements upon the world, and upon each of us.
This, if it need be said, is one of those times of discipline and chastisement, but one flows from God’s love for us, and which we should use to love God even more in return, by our words, deeds, our trust, our hope. And it is not bereft of Easter joy, when Christ triumphed over death and destruction. Destroy this temple or cathedral, that took a century to build? God can rebuild it in three days. And so He did.
So rejoice as you might, for in some mysterious way yet to be fully revealed, the Almighty is doing a great thing here,