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.
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.
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
I have always loved the Acts of the Apostles and have often recommended it to those who are approaching the Bible for the first time. Filled with colorful narratives, adventure, martyrdom, persecution, and journeys by sea, it makes for stimulating reading indeed. But I love it especially because it shows us the excitement of being a follower of Jesus. Long before there were parishes and dioceses and the Vatican and other institutional structures, there was this band of brothers and sisters who were so overwhelmed and energized by the fact of the resurrection that they went careening around the world and to their deaths with the message of Jesus. It also features some wonderful exemplifications of Christian preaching, for it relates to us some of the earliest kerygmatic proclamations of the apostles. If we attend carefully to these speeches, we can learn a lot about good preaching, but also a lot about the nature of Christianity. A particularly fine example is the sermon given by St. Peter on Pentecost morning and described in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. We hear that Peter stood up with the Eleven and raised his voice. First lesson: all legitimate Christian teaching and proclamation is apostolic, which is to say, grounded in the witness of the first intimate followers of Jesus. Bishops are entitled to preach precisely because they are successors of the apostles; priests and deacons are formally commissioned to preach by bishops. This is to assure that what preachers say is not just a matter of private opinion or the fruit of the present cultural consensus, but is rather rooted in the experience of those who knew Jesus personally. So what does apostolic preaching sound like? Peter says, “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Notice, first, the strength, confidence, and edginess of this proclamation. There is nothing weak, vacillating, or unsure about it. This is not a preacher sharing his doubt with you or reveling in the complexity and multivalence and ambiguity of faith. This is a man speaking (in a loud voice) about his absolute conviction. And what is he convicted about? “That God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Christos, the Greek term for Messiah from which we derive the English word Christ, has the sense of anointed, which implies the new David, which means the fulfillment of the expectation of Israel. Good preaching always puts Jesus in relation to Israel, for he makes sense only kata ta grapha (according to the Scriptures). A Jesus abstracted from the history of Israel devolves in short order into a mere religious teacher or teacher of timeless spiritual truths. And not only is he Christ; he is also Kyrios (Lord). This term had, at the time of Peter and Jesus, both a Jewish and a Roman sense. On the Jewish reading, it designated Yahweh, the God of Israel, for Adonai (Lord, in Hebrew) was the typical substitute for the unpronounceable tetragrammaton, YHWH. Paul, who continually calls Jesus “Lord,” says that Jesus was given the name above every other name, by which he means the name of God. Preaching that leaves the Divinity of Jesus aside or in the shadows is, therefore, not Apostolic preaching. Now Kyrios also had a Roman sense, since Caesar was called Kyrios, meaning the one to whom final allegiance is due. Do you see how edgy and subversive it was to declare that Jesus is Lord, and by implication, Caesar is not? And do you see why those who made that claim usually ended up imprisoned and/or put to death? A twentieth century Anglican bishop memorably expressed the insight as follows: “When Paul preached, there were riots; when I preach, they serve me tea.” Notice, next, that Peter is not tickling the ears of his hearers: “God has made both Lord and Christ this Jesus whom you crucified.” He’s not pulling any punches or trying to win friends and influence people. About as bluntly and clearly as he possibly can, he names the sin of his audience. And this is precisely what “cuts to the heart” of his hearers. Trust me when I tell you that abstract spiritual principles, tired bromides, and timeless moral truths don’t cut people to the heart. And so they cry out, “What are we to do?” Peter’s sermon continues: “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins.” Every truly evangelical sermon should be a call to repentance, to turn one’s life around. If it doesn’t lead to contrition and a conviction to change, it has not cut to the heart. Mind you, this doesn’t entail moralizing in a brow-beating way, but rather the presenting of the message of Jesus in such a clear and compelling way that people naturally see how they’ve fallen short and want to change. Peter concludes: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Followers of Jesus are a holy nation, a people set apart. We have renewed minds and wills; we should profile ourselves distinctly against the backdrop of the world. If we think and act like everyone else, we haven’t taken in the Gospel. Relatedly, if all we hear from the pulpit is what can be heard on talk-shows and in discussion groups and in political conversations, we haven’t heard the Gospel. Finally, we are told that, “Three thousand persons were added [to the Church] that day.” I know that everyone and his brother tells us not to worry about numbers and there is indeed truth to that. For God wants us to be, not successful, but faithful, as Mother Teresa said. However, like it or not, the Bible is interested in numbers. And good preaching, if it is truly evangelical, is meant to draw people into the Church. That they are staying away from the Church in droves today says, I would suggest, something rather negative about the quality of our preaching. To all preachers, I might recommend a careful consideration of the kerygmatic sermonizing in the Acts of the Apostles. If you preach like Peter, they might not serve you tea after every homily, but they will know that they’ve been cut to the heart.
Ignoring the Obvious ‘He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So, the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation”’(John 11:43-48) I could never understand how the chief priests and Pharisees responded to witnesses reporting such a mighty miracle. How could they ignore the obvious conclusion? They could not deny the miracle. Instead, they adopted the absurd policy of denying the one who performed the miracle! Ironically, they were trying to save the man-made tabernacle (holy place) by destroying the true tabernacle (Jesus). Why couldn’t they recognize the Saviour they had long awaited? The answer is simple: They didn’t want to! Accepting Jesus as the Christ could cost them everything, so they wilfully closed their eyes to the Truth! Whenever we choose comfort and turn a blind eye to the Truth (knowingly or unknowingly), we are in the company of these people. Wilful blindness is a deeprooted problem in many of us. Is it a Right to remain Ignorant? Mr. M is a hardcore atheist. He says he believes in Science, but purposely avoids anything which Science struggles to explain. His wilful blindness doesn’t allow him to see things on their own merits. Everything is filtered through his ‘I know there is no God’ lens. Lately, I started recognising some ways in which I am wilfully blind. As an example, last week, a policeman stopped my car to test my breath for alcohol. As a non-drinker, I always considered myself a safe driver who doesn’t pose a danger to others. However, although my alcohol level is always zero, I have sometimes failed to get enough sleep before taking the wheel. A drowsy driver is as dangerous as a drunken driver! Wilful blindness can affect how a faithful Christian interprets Scripture. That is why it says the Gospel I read is my own gospel. Antony reads Antony’s gospel; Joseph reads Joseph’s gospel and Mary reads Mary’s gospel! Each one interprets the Scriptures in their own way! We tend to give greater importance to verses that give us comfort and overlook verses that could challenge us! For example - A nondrinker who sees the warning against the ‘drunkard’ and ignores warnings against other sins is wilfully blind. A husband who sees the ‘submissive wife’ in Scripture but misses the Christ-like husband, who must love his wife and give himself up for her, is also wilfully blind (and vice versa). A preacher I know used to quote Luke 12:32 which says,“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom”. Every time, attendees responded with familiarity. Then, he would ask whether anyone knows the very next verse. Nobody could ever answer the question. It says, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor”. The first verse is, in fact, a pre-assurance that we need not fear to do the latter, but we tend to ignore the whole message and stick to what is comforting. This is wilful blindness. Eyes become useless when the mind is blind Two thousand years ago, during His trial, Jesus told Pilate that He came into the world to testify to the Truth. Everyone who belongs to the Truth, listens to His voice. Even though Pilate asked Him to clarify this statement, he didn’t pursue his question. He probably knew that knowing the Truth would hinder him from what he was about to do. He had to turn a blind eye towards the Truth to keep his position and reputation. Can we do a better job? In fact, it doesn’t need a great effort on our part! We simply need to turn our eyes to the Lord and keep them open. He, the Light of the World, will come into our hearts to illuminate the darkness so we can see clearly.
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