Quarantine is sure to become a curse word by the end of this. We are now forced to do what so many working Americans longed for—sit at home, sleep, and watch Netflix—and it has become torture. I had never heard of Zoom until two weeks ago and now it is our lifeline to civilization. There are so many things that have changed. Going outside feels eerie, but staying inside cannot last forever. Once we realize that the news continues to say the same thing and Tiger King is the best that Netflix has to offer, we will all have to find something else to do; is there anything else to do?
It is almost too fitting that this virus hit during Lent. The word quarantine is actually the word for Lent in other languages because it comes from the root meaning 40. This is the Lent within Lent. We are forced to fast from many things that we never planned on fasting from: community, travel, restaurants, and even the Mass. Oddly enough, we have a great opportunity during this time to focus on the cross more fully and walk this quarantine with Jesus on his way to Calvary. Our faith is in a God who uses the bad for His good and who uses tough times to create saints. If we take a closer look at the cross through the lens of Genesis, we can come to see how God makes all things work together for His eternal good.
The Fruit of the Tree
We must start at the very beginning when God created man and woman. Adam and Eve walked with God in a luscious garden that provided everything they could ever need. God instructed Adam to keep and till the garden which he did joyfully, however, there was one thing they were instructed not to do, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gen 2:17). Of course, we know how the story goes from here. Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thus eating their own condemnation. As promised, God condemns them to mortal lives and excommunicates them from the garden. Although there are other punishments, the worst of them is human death without opportunity for communion with God. By eating of the fruit of the tree, Adam and Eve condemned humanity to both physical and spiritual death.
Luckily, this is not where the story ends! God, in his infinite mercy, plans to undo the great fault of Adam and Eve by sending Jesus to the world. There are many ways in which Jesus could have atoned for the grave sin of the world but God willed that it be done in a very specific way.
The Cup of Salvation
Since the beginning, the punishment for sin has been death. God uses His own punishment that he handed down as His means to bring eternal life. This would be similar to your high school basketball coach making the team do sprints then doing then sprints for the team so that they don’t have to do sprints any more… it doesn’t make sense in our world! But to God this makes perfect sense. He uses our condemnation as His means of salvation. It is by way of death, man’s punishment, that Jesus offers us salvation from the cross. This is the great Christian mystery that God uses the punishment for our sin in order to undo our sin, but it does not stop there.
The fall of man involved eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This, the serpent says, will make man like God. God sends us Jesus, the eternal truth, who teaches us what is truly good, God alone. Jesus is the true fruit of all knowledge of God, but God does not tell us to refrain from eating! Rather, this time, he takes the fruit, crushes it on calvary, and offers it to us saying, “take and drink.” The new fruit has been pressed down into wine and offered to us as the cup of salvation. In a great slap in the face to the serpent, the new fruit offered to us in the cup of salvation is an offering to consume God body, blood, soul, and divinity. The fruit of the tree could not make us like God, but the new cup of salvation can! We are no longer eating our condemnation; we are consuming our salvation!
God uses the same means by which we fell to bring us back to life. He is able to take the worst of all punishments, death and exile, and use them to bring us back to communion with Him. Even our human appetite which led us to death in original sin, God now uses to bring us closer to Him in the Eucharist. He took the lie of Satan and made it into His own reality. We can become like God in His new offer of salvation on the cross. Let us remember that God can use this time of quarantine as means for our salvation and His glory. Let us place our hope in His divine will that He is leading us back to His eternal embrace.