Love is based on sacrifice. If we love only when we feel like loving, we do not love the person, but the feeling of love itself. So if we would love Christ, we must hold to his words and his teachings even when they prove difficult.

What does this mean in a time of pandemic? It means we have to stop thinking that dying to ourselves is just a sometimes thing. Rather, taking up one’s cross and loving one’s neighbor as one’s self is an always thing.

We have to stop thinking there’s a point where we’re owed, where we’ve given enough, where we can stop having to love, having to sacrifice, having to pour out our time, talent and effort on a world of injured, aching, angry, sad, wounded, sinful, struggling and lost. We also have to stop thinking we’re not the injured, aching, angry, sad, wounded, sinful, struggling lost.

It means more than civility or manners or even small acts of kindness — the kind that sprinkle across the internet, providing touching moments without necessarily anything beyond that incidental experience. Receiving Christ, we now must bring Christ to the world. Our mission is nothing less than living out the corporeal and spiritual acts of mercy on a day-by-day, minute-by-minute, moment-by-moment basis with each person we encounter every time. It is an impossible mission without God, but through God, all things are possible.

It means all the little things, like smiling, sharing, not hoarding, giving time and space to others, offering consolation when someone is grieving and encouragement when someone is tired.

It also means the big things, like speaking truth in charity, both online and in real life, and being a friend and ally to those in need of both, and not allowing ourselves the indulgence of either presumption of our own salvation and goodness, nor despair at anyone else’s opportunities to receive Christ’s mercy.

Saints imitate Christ, and Christ didn’t have a stopping point where he ceased to love. Love is based on sacrifice, and sacrifice doesn’t count the cost, the time, the effort, or the number of times effort is made, because love always extends to the infinite. 

How do we weather this time of heightened fear? Simple. We begin by being Catholic, by being not afraid, by being sacrificial, by being a source of salt and light, warmth and hope to a flat, dark, cold and despairing world. We begin by being like Christ in all things. Let’s get to work.