We are in fall and it is time for flu shots because winter is when we tend to get the flu. Getting vaccinated protects us against the infection. This is an example of many vaccines developed to fight diseases such as tetanus, yellow fever, hepatitis, etc. Vaccines are often made from the disease-causing microorganism. When they are introduced into the body, they stimulate the body’s immune system “to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and ‘remember’ it, so that the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy any of these microorganisms that it later encounters.”
The main idea behind the development of vaccines is that there are diseases and always will be. We cannot say that there should not be diseases, because there always will be as long we live in this world. The development of vaccines is clear recognition and acknowledgment that we are biological beings and are subject to laws of biology – sickness, decay and death. Vaccinations are a kind of insurance against certain diseases. There are other diseases which have no vaccines. For those, experts try to develop medications to manage them better.
What happens at our biological level happens also at our spiritual level. We will always encounter diseases. As psychological and spiritual beings, we also meet all kinds of circumstances and situations that throw life back on us. There are many things that happen in our lives we have no control over; but we have control over how we take them and what we make of them. Consider these examples: sickness, loss of loved ones, tragedy, betrayal, dysfunctional family, lack of love, loss of job, or our recent experience of being clustered parishes. You add to these global problems like injustice, oppression of powerless people, natural and man-made disasters, etc. These events can weigh upon our spirit and we slump into depression or give up living through escapes like drinking, drugs, sex, overeating, etc. When we are sick psychologically or spiritually, we lose joy, peace, happiness and a sense of meaning in life.
Because certain events in life can precipitate some psycho-spiritual disease, God invites us to get our spiritual vaccine, which is persistent faith! Persistent faith is faith that does not give up, faith that believes in the enduring love of God; a faith that knows God guides our life gently and tenderly to its purpose in Him, whether we feel it or not. Persistent faith expresses itself in persistent prayer. That is to say, persistent faith prays persistently, standing on the promises of God from whom our help always comes (Psalm 121:2). It is this same faith expressing itself in prayer that holds the Church, even amidst the many tribulations that she experiences in every generation or epoch. Our Lord tells us that in the world we shall have many troubles, but we should rest assured that He has conquered the world, and we share in His victory (John 16:33).
Persistent faith and prayer are our spiritual vaccines against all events that can cause us disease. That is why people of faith are deeply happy people, for even in their pain and experience of disappointments and tragedies, they still trust in the inscrutable goodness and loving heart of God. The woman who persistently prayed for the judge to render her justice, trusted in God and would not give up; and God truly came to her rescue (Luke 18:1-7). But there are also times our faith in God stretches us to stand firm like Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego did before King Nebuchadnezzar, who threatened to throw them into a fiery furnace if they did not worship his gods: “If our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O King, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O King, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected” (Daniel 3: 17-19).
Persistent faith is an incredibly effective spiritual vaccine. May we each pray for that grace always. Amen
Father Cornelius Okeke