“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Truly, despite the gloom and darkness we now face amid this COVID-19 Pandemic, we are reminded that darkness does not have the power to conquer or to hold the light under its domain. Darkness may try to prevent the light from shining, but it never holds back the light enduringly. Ultimately the LIGHT will always come shining through.
God is much bigger than this COVID-19 Health Crisis. He can surmount all. He is intimately involved in every part of our lives and is concerned with our afflictions. He will never forsake or overlook us. Scripture says: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
During the course of this enhanced community quarantine we have seen the “flicker of light” in our communities. We have experience various “acts of faith” and have seen numerous “warriors of virtue” in our thrust to overcome the impact of COVID-19. But in the course of our battle with this contagion we too have seen these “silver linings” in our personal and social encounters:
WE REALIZED THAT WE ARE THE “LIVING CHURCH” – when our “social distancing” precautions prompted the suspension of all church services and masses in our parishes, we started hearing the Eucharistic Celebration online or through various traditional media platforms (e.g. radio and TV). Indeed we were physically deprived to go to Church but we were never deprived to share the presence of each other and to celebrate our faith together. In the Bible, church is always a reference to people, not a building. The church is a body of believers that live out the Gospel in their words and actions. The church is at its best when people inside the building (physical structure of the church) take Jesus’ message outside the building and serve those they meet. “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2: 4-5).
WE SUPPORTED EACH OTHER AS A COMMUNITY OF DISCIPLES – be it spiritually or materially, our parishes and charitable organizations (e.g. Caritas Manila) were constantly on the move in various barangays to render assistance. Spiritually you would see our clergy with some lay leaders organize online masses, rosaries and recollections via several social media platforms. Some would even go around in their communities via mini processions just to bring the image and relic of their parish patron saint in the streets and homes of their barangays. Innumerable “KINDNESS STATIONS” have given relief goods, meals and even sleeping spaces to those in need. Cash donations given at this time of crisis helped met the initiatives of the Church in providing preventive measures. For instance, Caritas Manila gave thousands of LIGTAS COVID-19 Kits (a preventive kit that will give tools to the poor to help put a stop in getting the disease) as well as Caritas Manna Food Bags that sustained poor families during the enhanced community quarantine. These “Spiritual Frontliners” have likewise risked personal safety to help those in need because as a “community of disciples” we are called to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you (we) will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
WE WERE GIVEN MORE TIME FOR PRAYER AND SILENCE – with relatively more time in our hands due to our current state of being “home quarantined”, many of us can now find the time for prayer and silence. "True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that --- it is spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth” (Charles Spurgeon). While on the other hand, silence “is a gateway to the soul, and the soul is the gateway to God”. (Benedictine Christopher Jamison of Worth Abbey). Let us remember the counsel of St. Mother Teresa: “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace”. In our noise-polluted world, it is even difficult to hear our inner self let alone try to be quiet and discern the will of God. Thus, moments like this for prayer and silence must be befriended as fertile ground for intimacy with God.
Finally, WE WERE GIVEN THE CHANCE TO STRENGTHEN THE DOMESTIC CHURCH - one of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium (“Light of the Nations”), describes the family as the “domestic Church” because it is the first place where young, baptized Christians learn about their faith. And for those who are given this rare chance to spend more quality time with the family during this home quarantine, this is likewise an opportunity to help deepen our faith vis-à-vis the bonding moments that help build strong familial relations. The Catholic Church acknowledges that grace builds upon nature. The Family is one of the most basic, yet significant gifts that God has given us. Through a firm marital obligation between husband and wife, and through their own active participation in the faith and their pledge to raise their children with a love for Christ and his Church, the domestic Church is one of first places that young Catholics experience the light of the faith in their own lives --- and we can use this COVID-19 Health Crisis as a “teachable moment” to help cultivate these values as a “domestic church”.
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