The month of March used to be associated with two very well known Saints – St Patrick the patron Saint of Ireland and St. Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and foster father to Jesus Christ… but for March 2020, a Saint that, had we done a poll back in February would have never even been heard of has trended her way into significance over one thousand and eight hundred years since her martyrdom: Saint Corona. As if her name wasn’t significant enough, different emails and forwards were claiming she was the Patron Saint of Epidemics.
That was until Snopes and other “fact checking sites” started weighing in and started picking apart the story. Was her name Corona or Stephanie? Was she the patron Saint of epidemics or of gamblers? (Which just for clarification, we’re not saying she’s “pro-gambling” anymore than we’re saying she’s “pro-epidemic”). The truth of the matter is, we don’t really know. There’s not a lot known about St. Corona since her death was in the year 170 A.D. We know there was a Saint that had that name, there are some details about her that were passed down from the early Church of that time about her being martyred in Syria – but to be fair, the lives of holy people, martyrs from that time period were not as well documented. Especially at that point in history when the Church was pretty much illegal everywhere, was heavily persecuted, and so losing your life for Christ was more likely a possibility than the rare exception…
This supposed controversy isn’t that important. The more important point to me is how it underlines what we just heard in these scriptures [you can read them here]. People’s search for God… People looking for signs of His presence… People wanting some certainty He’s aware of what we’re suffering and wanting Him to show up and show out in a big way. In the first reading we heard from the Old Testament book of Numbers: “their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!” In the Gospel as Jesus is addressing the Pharisees, they take Jesus’ words out of context and fixate on Jesus saying He is going away and that they will search for Him but be unable to find Him. They get so lost in their thoughts, they wonder is He going to commit suicide?
Whether it’s in the heat of the desert thousands of years ago or us in the midst of this global pandemic are scared who are invoking a Saint we had never heard of before it’s acknowledging a desire for God to save us.
The challenge is to look at how are we approaching God? For the Jews in the First Reading, God takes offence that the people He has led every step of the way seemingly have forgotten where they had been, what they were suffering and how God had saved them. They weren’t approaching Him with thanksgiving for all that He had done… they weren’t sounding like they were filled with faith and trust in God that He would continue to lead them. It wasn’t so much a prayer – it was a complaint. For the first listeners in the Gospel that Jesus is directing his words to, similarly they’re hung up on their expectations of who and what God should do and the when, the why and the how as well. They are revealing that at their core, they were approaching their religious belief from a very temporal, very secular perspective.
Jesus tries to get them to shift their focus – and ours – in His response. Do we recognize Him as the Son of Man…. Do we realize that Jesus is the great I AM – (the sacred revelation that God had first described himself to Moses in the burning bush) – that Jesus is one with the Father and that the Son does what the Father has taught Him?
The reason there is a Saint Corona – the reason there are any Saints – is because she did believe that… they did believe that. Their lives here on earth reflected that in such a way that upon their death, people were still in awe of the difference that Jesus had brought to their lives. How Jesus gave them a joy that wasn’t found in this world. How Jesus gavone them a peace, that wasn’t affected by the heat of a desert, by the fears of a viral pandemic.
Yes, it’s a good thing to ask for the Saints to intercede for us, to pray for us, especially in times of need. But at the heart of that prayer are we looking simply for a quick fix to a present, urgent need – or is it a desire for that joy, that peace that they have found? St. Corona, and all the Saints are encouraging us to set our hearts, our minds, our souls on the one who made, controls the universe… to look up not to our very human leaders for answers, but the God who became one of us, one with us… to look up at the Cross, to look up to Him who rose from the dead and was victorious over that Cross and remains with us here and now. May we find the peace, the joy that comes from having our lives fixed on Him with that unwavering gaze.