During a recent homily, a Spanish priest said something that impressed me: “Many of the faithful have been asking me lately if the coronavirus is a punishment from God. Well, I don’t know . . . but it is easier for God to show his infinite mercy to men than his wrath. God’s wrath . . . is limited. What’s so special about God is his mercy, because it is infinite.”

Of course, no one is safe from anguish these days. I like the fear shown by the man who falls off the cliff in the joke, because it’s extremely human. So too were St. Peter’s doubts as he walked on water. But the best balm for all kinds of fear is God. I just attended the Good Friday services via the YouTube channel of Torreciudad, a shrine somewhere in the mountains of northeastern Spain. I was surprised to see that about 4,000 people were following the live broadcast. There are thousands of similar broadcasts happening at the same time around the world. In the midst of pain and uncertainty, it seems that many are returning to God, probably because there’s no anxiety pill better than prayer.

Before this pandemic, our modern society had declared a thousand times that there’s no need for God: that we can do everything we need with science, with our political systems, with our prosperity. The dominant religion in the world was the one that Leon Bloy described so well when referring to modernity: “Inside every modern person there is a small infallible Church of which he is Christ and Pope and its grand mission is to attract the greatest possible number of believers.” We were a proud society, only comparable to any car driver.