Thank God for today. We are in the middle of crisis at this point in our lives – not just in one country but all over the world. Weeks ago, we lived from day to day thinking we could simply go on living the next day and the day after that..and the day after that. Sure, death would come someday but not anytime soon. We were certain that we can do the usual things – plan for the summer, go on vacations, go on a pilgrimage and all those things we normally do during Lent, everyday and during weekends. We were once certain that we will always be with our family and see our relatives and friends during the next occasion or reunion. We heard about this corona virus alright and it scared us but most of us didn’t really think it can lead to something like this.
One day schools were closed, followed by churches, offices, malls and banks. And as much as we wanted to go on with our personal concerns and agenda, everything had to come to a halt – students looking forward to their graduation and graduation balls, couples about to get married, events here and there, people working for their families and so on. The Lord had allowed this virus to hit a pause (for some, a stop) button in our lives.
While some employees can work from home and survive, this is not applicable for all. Many small-time businessmen now struggle to solve how they can continue and save their business and still keep their employees and themselves safe and provided; government officials, policemen and soldiers are on their feet to enforce strict implementation of rules in every community; health workers faced with risk practically 24/7 as sick people keep coming in. Worse, many people have died and are dying. We hear of people we know, dying alone, away from families, perhaps with no last rites anymore before they die. This seems like the saddest and loneliest time to get sick and to die. This time, we only have God to hold on to at the last moment of struggle in our lives. We can bring nothing and we can bring no one.
What my family and I did not see coming was the closing of the churches. And at first, I had questions in my mind about the whole thing. I suppose most of us did. If the church didn’t close, it was probably the only place, aside from the grocery and drugstore that we would keep going to. It would be the only place where we felt safe and strong somehow. But the fact that even the churches closed and that we have been advised not to leave our homes as much as possible even by our church leaders showed the severity of the situation. And we must trust that God guides our leaders, our shepherds with His Hand even when it is hard for us to understand why even God seemingly hides Himself from us. How many times have we planned to hear Mass daily and have not been able to? How painful it is when we are caught unprepared to be deprived of something that is important to us – and we only realize the void, the emptiness, its importance, when it is gone. And as one priest shared on Twitter during that first online Sunday mass (I’m sorry I could not find his post anymore and could not recall his name), may we always remember this thirst for the Mass, this thirst for our Lord in the Eucharist. How true! As Pope Francis said during his reflection during his urbi et orbi last March 27, now is the time for us to choose between what matters and what passes away; what is necessary and what is not.
It was heartbreaking to watch Pope Francis as he walked in the empty grounds of St. Peter’s Basilica Church but I was deeply moved with that much reverence that he has shown to our Lord hidden in the small Host, even in his apparent difficulty in walking. His meditation on that passage from Mark about the storm while Jesus was sleeping in the boat reminded me somehow of St. Therese’s reflection in her autobiography Story of a Soul. During turbulent times in her life, she would often express that Jesus is sleeping quietly in the boat but that she doesn’t want to disturb Him. She longed to allow the Lord to sleep quietly and not wake Him up, seemingly implying that she would keep her faith, embrace her cross and wait patiently for the Lord to act because she knew that trusting in His Will like a little child is what pleases Him most.
And many would ask, why would He, a Loving and Merciful God, allow such kind of suffering?
But as we reflect…and why would He not? With all our sins and the sins of the world, don’t we somehow deserve it? Don’t we complain about the most trivial things like heavy traffic or the weather yet forgetting to thank the Lord for this gift of life that we have and is now being taken away from so many people all over the world? Are we not responsible for our actions? Has He not made us stewards of all of His Creation? Is our body not the temple of the Holy Spirit yet the horrible things that we do to it, the awful things we do to others. Don’t we have any contribution to this?
We respect the authority of men and uphold man-made laws that fit our convenience yet we utterly disrespect God and despise His Laws. We assert our so-called human rights but trample on the rights of innocent human beings like the unborn among many others. We twist the truth and corrupt natural laws. We succumb to our sins of vanity, indifference, worldliness and the list goes on.
Come to think of it, with everything that has been happening, the world should have ended a long time ago. The real question should be, why would God NOT allow this kind of suffering? Because of His Great Love and Mercy, for the sake of those who believe – and even for those who don’t, for those who love Him and for those who don’t, He allows the world to exist. He gives us this special time to repent and make reparation for our sins. He allows us to take the time to finally notice Him in silence and prayer, to notice Him in the faces of family members, of our neighbors, of people from other countries who are in much needed help physically and spiritually. No matter how different we all are, we have one Creator, One God. We are all connected to one another through Him. And we are all in need of Him.
Who can comprehend the depth and extent of His Love? He pulls us out of the noise and buzz of the world and draws us towards Him. Suddenly, whether we like it or not, we will have to pause and reflect. We look at our lives, how proud we are of what we have or what we have become, yet utterly powerless to the Hand of God. As the Scripture says, we are from dust and to dust indeed, we shall return.
We recall the plague on Egypt. We recall Noah when he warned the people and yet no one listened and believed. Has not God been warning us enough through centuries? There are people whom He already called to Himself and to the rest of us, it is as if God suddenly calls us now on earth asking, Are you ready? Are you awake?
And Lord…many of us, that includes me, are so not.
Yet even at the state we are in, awaiting whether the virus will get to us or anyone in our family, awaiting when this thing shall stop and hopefully pass us by, we claim Lamentations 3:22-24 in faith. God can hear our cries.
No matter what happens to us, the Lord’s Unfailing Love and Mercy still continue, fresh as the morning as sure as the sunrise…
He is ALL we have. And so in Him, let us put our hope.
How thankful we are for TV and online masses, retreat and talks that give us spiritual comfort, nourishment and consciousness, good news about survivors and heroic acts of our frontliners amidst the atmosphere of death, politics and worldly distractions. God has never truly left us. He is, in fact with us, sleeping in our boat.
There is no virus more powerful than God. And there is no death more powerful than God. Jesus has already conquered death. Naturally, many of us fear death. But more so what follows after that. So we hold on to the One who has gone through death and has risen, who knows the beginning and end, who knows everything about us – Jesus Christ, the Son of God. When I am down, one of the passages that truly uplift me is that of the Lord’s Resurrection from the book of John, when Jesus appeared to the apostles.
“Peace be with you.”, He said and the apostles, who were in fact hiding due to fear, were filled with joy upon seeing Him (John 20:20). And as I always try to put myself in the apostles’ shoes or in Mary Magdalene’s shoes (or sandals) upon seeing the Lord, can you just imagine the joy and delightful surprise they must have felt! Mixed emotions, perhaps. Still not having recovered from their grief and fear, they eventually saw that it was in fact the Lord and they were filled with joy, peace and hope. The Lord had foretold them that this joy would be the kind that cannot be taken away from them (John 16:22). It was the kind of joy that extended throughout their ministry to the early Church and gave them courage through trials all the way to martyrdom without backing off. Would we not want to have this kind of joy that makes us not fear even death?
Like St. Therese, let us try not to wake up the sleeping Savior with our cries of panic. But to snuggle or move even closer to Him in the boat, hold tightly on His arm and close our eyes amidst the terrifying storm, to seek comfort in His Presence knowing that as long as we are near Him even in that frail boat, we can remain still and be safe. May He give us the faith and strength to embrace His Will no matter how painful and how weak we have become.
Let this point in history allow our hearts and consciousness to be open and yielding to the Lord. He is All we have.
To God be the Glory!