The coronavirus is indeed causing havoc in the world today; but is there a virus deadlier than this?
As I write this, almost the whole world is in the grips of the virus that has paralysed mankind. Who would have thought that in this age of advanced technology, with daily scientific discoveries, we could be taken by surprise? Or that, while mankind has ventured to nearby planets, our plans for our lives and our future together on earth could be so dampened that we will be forced to live an inferior lifestyle, very different to what we are used to?
2020 has barely begun, but Australia (where I live) has already suffered several disastrous events, culminating in the current crisis. The year began with catastrophic bushfires which burned massive tracts of land, killed numerous people and animals and destroyed many, many homes and properties. Smoke darkened our skies, intruded into our homes and even interfered with sporting fixtures. Just as we were starting to recover from that, extensive storms and heavy rain struck, pelting some places with huge hailstones and causing flash floods. Just when we thought we can now move on; the Coronavirus has invaded our lives. Now, we are all enduring the stifling restrictions which are crippling our economies, our communities, our education and our access to the sacraments. Mankind is afraid and though many still show a brave face, we are all aware that some of us may not see tomorrow.
Currently much of the world is in a war-like situation. Some people are fighting for toilet rolls, stockpiling food for months and cutting off all physical contact. All public places except essential services are closed and New York – the centre of international business – is now under the supervision of the National guard. This is an extraordinarily difficult time for leaders of all nations as they venture into uncharted territories. A few of them have even contracted the virus themselves.
The virus, and all the restrictions it has caused, can only damage us physically and psychologically. Scripture teaches us that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so we must protect and care for it, but Jesus reminded us not to fear what can only kill the body. Our souls are invaluable in God’s sight and it lives forever. Jesus came into a world focused on the physical life and material things to show us that the spiritual life is more important than anything else. The flesh must pass away, but the soul will live on eternally.
The real virus that has paralysed mankind today is SIN. No other virus has ever caused greater damage than the virus of SIN that has crippled and degenerated us so much that many are already living dead, empty lives, fulfilling no other purpose than to entertain themselves. Sin has distanced us from God, darkened our minds, hardened our hearts, dulled our ears, blinded our eyes and sickened our souls. This is far more terrible than being unable to move around freely doing what we like. We could face an eternity separated from all that is good, unless we change our ways.
Jesus took up the burden of sins of all mankind and died for all of us, so we could live with Him forever. So, we need not fear death if we accept His salvation and follow Him daily. We will all die one day and because of our hope in Jesus, we can rejoice as death approaches.
So if you are a Christian, this is the time to showcase our faith, to be fearless, trusting in the life that Jesus has already offered and prepared for us. This is the time as the church teaches, to receive spiritual communion. The heart of a Christian would be full of joy in this time since nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. And any sickness especially leading to death is a time of great rejoicing for such a person. As St Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” Philippians 1:21. We must now, without fail, pray for mercy and forgiveness on behalf of our brothers and sisters who do not know Him and haven’t accepted HIM as their Lord and Saviour and are unaware of the joy of that relationship. We must also do whatever is possible to help those around us as inspired by the Holy Spirit.
For those who only follow a tradition by going to church every Sunday and do not really share a relationship with God, this is your time to look deep within your heart where Christ awaits you. This is where HE always desired to meet you. Instead of filling the free time with empty things during this shutdown, seize the opportunity to spend time in silence, read the Bible and allow HIS word to take flesh in your life. There is no better time than this to forgive and to ask forgiveness from those whom we have offended.
For those who are still following other man-made religions/ways of life (receiving some sort of temporal satisfaction), Jesus declares that HE is the truth, the way and the life. This means that if you are really searching for the truth, all roads will lead you to Jesus Christ alone. Are you searching for the truth or are you settling for breadcrumbs falling off the table?
For those who are depending only on their good works or those who are following nothing at all, this is your time to reflect on your inner life and give your souls and hearts to Jesus and be saved. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8.
Let’s prepare ourselves for our last day that will come at an hour we do not expect. It may be when Jesus will return in glory to gather all those who love and follow Him. Or it may be at any moment before that.
Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to walk in space states that astronauts do not go into space with their fingers crossed and that the more you know, the less you fear. In other words, the less you know, the more you fear. I encourage you to know Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for to know him is to know the truth (John 8:32) and to have eternal life (John 17:3). Let us recognise that the real virus that afflicts us is Sin. Let us allow Jesus to take over our lives, deliver us from sin and lead us to eternal life.
encountered Jesus Christ at a cafe in 2002 and has since been blessed to serve in God's vineyard in different capacities. Husband to his beautiful wife, Raifiel and father to two angels, Zakar and Zane (now in heaven), he currently lives and works in Canberra, Australia.
In the midst of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic life as we knew it continues to change. We are stripped of so many things that were once a part of our everyday lives. And we stand amidst it all figuring out who we really are in this new normal. Typically, we spend our lives working hard to shape our own identity, to brand ourselves. We want to control the kind of person we appear to be. Depending on our interests, we pour our time into specific activities, sports, hobbies, and into whatever work has helped shape the perception of “who we are” for the rest of the world. We desire to be seen and known as a certain kind of person and sometimes we even flaunt our special achievements or successes. We buy into the idea that the things we have, do, and accomplish are what make us who we are—that they create our identity. And then all of a sudden, the whole world stops. No more sports. No more concerts. No more large social gatherings. No more intimate get-togethers with friends. No more travel. No more sense of security. And for some, a loss of money. a loss of employment. a loss of business. a loss of health. a loss of loved ones. a loss of life. We have been stripped. Stripped of much of what we thought we were, and much of what we thought we needed. Such a process of detachment is hard and painful and sometimes very scary. Sometimes, even without a world-wide health crisis, God allows us to go through a process of detachment from the things and ways we use to identity ourselves so we can discover our true identity. Inevitably, if we do not know who we are and what we are worth, we attach our identity to earthly things that are fleeting and can be pulled out from under our feet at any time. Our sure and solid source is God and God alone. And we need to know him intimately. When we do, we will know how much he values us. You and I, my friend, are first and foremost beloved children of a loving Father. That is our true identity. That is the only identity that matters. The world will try to tell you otherwise. Your friends might try to tell you otherwise. The Tempter surely will try to tell you otherwise. But nothing changes the Truth of who you are. It is your Truth and it is my Truth, and it is every person’s Truth. And it does not matter whether or not we come to own it and believe it. Nothing we say or do can change that Truth. Our identity rooted in the Father is where we find life. And an interesting fact about the Kingdom Jesus established is when we feel we have nothing left; we realize that we actually have everything we need. Now, in the midst of this crisis, when each one of us is being stripped of some aspect of our former lives, now is the time to dig deep and claim our true identity. So I will start. I am Jackie Perry, a beloved daughter of our merciful Father. Who are YOU?
The simple and tender words of Jesus instructing us to “love one another as I have loved you” have taken on a deeper meaning for me over the past few weeks as the coronavirus has spread throughout the globe. I have witnessed love of neighbor in action from every end of the earth, and in my own backyard. And if this love had a sound, that sound would be silence: quiet classrooms, empty offices, and desolate parks. The silence is powerful. It is the sound of love. It is the sound of Isolation, sacrifice, and self-denial for the health and safety of humanity. What a beautiful movement in a defining moment. Odd as it may sound, there is an immeasurable amount of beauty in all this suffering we face. As I look in my daughter’s closet and see her dresses for prom and graduation hanging up, now never to be worn, I can’t help but feel a twinge of pain and sadness for the memories she and so many others will never create. But she is living in a moment she will never forget. A moment that none of us will ever forget --when the world came together and love spread faster than a virus. That is the most extraordinary memory to keep. That is what makes this time of pain and loss extraordinarily holy. Like many people, I hope that when love and prayer and science conquer this pandemic, life does not return to normal. I pray kindness and compassion will continue to overflow this earth. I pray the pain, sacrifice, and hardships we are all enduring softens us – softens our hearts, our actions, our thoughts. I pray that each of us will appreciate our blessings in life a little more, that our faith will become a little deeper, that our love for each other will grow a little stronger. My hope is that the little things in life become the bigger things in life, as our appreciation for everything around us flourishes. I pray that we fully understand what it means to love each other as Jesus loves us and actively live this love, because we are all in this beautiful life together.
“You touched my coffee!” the customer screamed at the young barista, who burst into tears as she helplessly tried to offer a new cup to the angry woman. We sensed she was not a local and the loyal patrons rallied to defend the young girl. “If you are so worried about contamination, you should not even go out!” shouted one patron. “Stay home!” another butted in. As a pastoral worker, I offered her a word of comfort. While she made my cuppa between sobs, I reminded her that the current environment made everyone tense, so she shouldn’t take it personally and let the incident ruin her day. Just a few minutes later, I had to take my own advice. When I accidentally overstepped the 1.5 meters mark at the grocery store, an elderly gentleman admonished me with disgust: “Stay in your spot!” adding a poke in the arm for extra emphasis. Then, when I took my little granddaughter out for a much-needed exercise, she was berated by a passerby, shouting “1.5 meters!” as he huffed away. Whew!!! Many of us have similar incidents to recount as the COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll. We are all so full of fear and anxiety that we seem to have lost the love, joy and graciousness of life. Hardly anyone smiles now as we walk past them. Heads are bowed, as eyes flit about, alarmingly vigilant but spaced out. The body language signals, “Stay away from me”. This is easily understandable as we face a dangerous, invisible enemy and we do not know who will fall by its sword before the pandemic ends. Thousands of lives and livelihoods are being lost or impaired. Although we all know that social distancing and self-isolation are necessary shields, we all suffer its effects – some catastrophically. Everyone has been affected, especially the dedicated front-line health workers, who heroically continue their care despite the risks. Sadness over the loss of loved ones, for any cause, becomes overwhelming when mourners are unable to receive the comfort of friends and family. My heart breaks for them as I pray for the souls of the dead and for comfort for their families. Government and health authorities are doing everything they can to enforce what they believe to be the best measures to control and prevent it. Many of them compare it to warfare. And indeed, there are casualties. Every nation is at its knees. But what has been its impact on me personally? When the lockdown and the shutdown were imposed, I looked at the projects I was supposed to be working on. At that moment, they seemed irrelevant. I decided to put them away in the garage, knowing that I would not be able to work on them now. My perspective has quickly shifted as I live moment by moment, prioritizing health and safety. I needed to visit the doctor for a medical issue. I implored the Lord to spare me from needing hospital care, as I dreaded the atmosphere there at present. I am forced to be more reflective and examine which parts of my life need to change. Every day I pray on my knees to ask the Lord for help. At every hour, I pray my favorite psalm 91 for the Lord’s protection for everyone, and the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” I usually get excited about future projects, but with COVID-19, the future is a blur. The unknown has become my daily reality. Because I am accustomed to a busy life, I needed to find activities to help me cope. I cook for the family more. Since my daughter and son-in-law work from home, I have taken on substantial duties in the kitchen. Family life has become our foundation. The first few weeks of staying home 24/7 were trying, but things improved as family solidarity was given greater importance and we appreciated each other more. Each of us contributed more to home duties. The daily laundry has become a consolation; its gentle whirring a sound of normality. Having ample time to clean cupboards and sort the house has given me a purpose. Sleeping-in became an escape at first, but then I also realized how exhausted my body had been over the years and I welcomed the rest and the slowing down. My shower in the morning has moved to an afternoon ritual as I rush to the shops for our essentials in the morning, while stock is still available. Simplicity has become a norm – no make-up, no perfume, just my unmade self. Little miracles happen. When I was desperate for toilet paper, hand wipes and disinfectant sprays and none was found at the shelves, some were left in an abandoned trolley! Reports from some parts of the world reveal that nature is taking a recuperative rest as pollution reduces and sky, oceans, forests revive. The closure of our churches during Lent and Easter was particularly difficult, and I wonder what message the Lord is revealing to us. Where is God in all of this? many people ask. Spiritual messages are plentiful. Most of them are encouraging, affirming that God is not the source of this, as He knows no evil, but He is travelling with us on this painful journey, just as He did when He suffered here on earth with us and His Resurrection gives us hope that we will endure this trial. Our prayer group that has been meeting weekly for the last 22 years was not discouraged by the lockdown. Led by the Holy Spirit, we conduct our prayer meeting and spiritual fellowship by phone conference every Friday and, gather prophetic messages and exhortations to see us through these difficult times. By embracing the use of technology, we can remain connected to our priests who continue to celebrate Mass for us. The blessing from this is that many people who were not previously present at Mass have joined us in tuning in to church gatherings and teachings, paving the way to a deeper, inner recollection and understanding of the faith. Never again will I take the gift of the Eucharist for granted. It is the most profound fast I have ever experienced. Recently, I got a call from a friend who is battling serious illness every day – at any moment she could die from heart and kidney problems. When she came out of hospital after another bout of complications, she told me that her outlook is one day at a time. I reflected that we are all in the same boat now. COVID-19 is teaching us an important lesson – to value each moment and be full of gratitude to God, from the instant we wake and all through the day. Words and deeds of love need to be spoken and performed right now, right here – not tomorrow. And have we ever said a genuine thank you to someone who served us today? “New every morning is your love, great God of light, and all day long you are working for good in the world. Stir up in us desire to serve you, to live peacefully with our neighbors and all your creation, and to devote each day to your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.” Amen. (A Liturgy for Morning Prayer, Upper Room Worship book)
I had the most extraordinary experience of love of neighbor with a Hindu family. A gentleman came to our house and said, “Mother Teresa, there is a family who has not eaten for so long. Do something.” So, I took some rice and went there immediately. When I saw the children, their eyes were shining with hunger. I don’t know if you have ever seen hunger, but I have seen it very often. The mother of the family took the rice I gave her and went out. When she came back, I asked her, “Where did you go; what did you do?” She gave me a very simple answer: “They [a neighbor family] are hungry also.” What struck me most was that they were a Muslim family. And she knew. I did not bring any more rice that evening, because I wanted them - Hindus and Muslims - to enjoy the joy of sharing. Those children were radiating joy - sharing their joy and peace with their mother because she had the love to give until it hurts. You see this is where love begins - at home in the family.” [Excerpt from “A Call to Mercy” by Mother Teresa] This happened at a time when religious violence was prevalent in India, and thousands of people died in the riots between the Hindu and Muslim communities. The unselfishly generous gift this poor woman unhesitatingly gave to her hungry neighbors, who happened to be a Muslim family, deeply touched Mother Teresa. She often looked to the poor; for their love was simple and their hearts were full of joy. Mother Teresa invites us to learn from the poor and receive their joy by sharing our blessings generously. “Not all of us are called to do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa
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