Many places of worship in the country, in particular, those located in the green zone areas, will be allowed to reopen from 10 June 2020 onwards, and will be required to adhere to strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). The Catholic Church has closely studied the SOP, looking for every possibility to start reopening churches soonest possible with the approval of the Ministry of National Unity (Kementerian Perpaduan). At the moment, the Ministry has allowed only three Catholic Churches in Peninsular Malaysia to reopen, with a condition that only a maximum of 30 parishioners be allowed to be in attendance at each mass. These churches will have to strictly follow the SOP, which includes sanitising the internal building, regular cleaning, wearing of masks, maintaining strict social distancing, etc. The live-streaming of Mass will continue as usual, to cater for all those who are unable to attend Mass at church.
During the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, we hardly heard of crimes, protests, demonstrations, riots, murders, thefts, robberies, drunk drivers, etc. For almost three months, especially during lockdown, millions of people adhered to the respective governments mandates to stay at home, maintain social distancing and to follow the SOP closely. Generally, people were united with one spirit, praying together for a common cause – combating the COVID19 virus. Now, many countries are easing their earlier strict lockdowns and gradually opening various sectors. As things move forward, we seem to be losing our gracefulness and we now get news of murders, protests across many countries, riots, robberies, accidents on the roads, drunk driving, drug trafficking, violation of rules and laws, etc. The world is once again permitting the undesirable to resurface.
Some people thought that the COVID-19 pandemic would give a new understanding and provide lifelong lessons for humanity – to be united with one spirit, to be at peace with one another and to be merciful to those in need. We realise that we are gradually losing this spirit of oneness and unity in prayer while praying for the global crisis and an end the pandemic. People seem to be ego-centric or self-centred instead, without any regret, consideration or sympathy for others. How are we going to heal the world, to save humanity and to overcome these difficult times? The global economy is deteriorating. The political situation is unstable. The list of social problems is rising day by day. Natural disasters are happening everywhere and our common home is once again contaminated and polluted.
The whole world seems to be facing a dilemma once again, as the movement control restrictions are slowly lifted and we are allowed, in stages, to get back to our jobs, business centres, places of worship, schools, etc. It appears that the ‘new normal’ everyone was talking about at the height of the pandemic, may not happen after all. The restrictions we adhered to during the lockdown in response to the Coronavirus, may likely be less practiced by many. During the lockdown, we were looking deeper into our faith and disciplining ourselves spiritually. We were at home, spending time with our families and there was a sense of closeness with our loved ones. It was hard but we learnt something from this, especially the spiritual aspects. We went through the lockdown patiently and joyfully. In the silence we heard God’s inner voice speaking to us. What we experienced during the first quarter of this year, I don’t think we may ever experience the same again. There is a great possibility that whatever good we may have learnt during this time of trial may fade away and we will revert to the same old realities of life.
The most significant seasons in the Church’s Liturgical calendar – Lent and Easter, have ended, and now we are in Ordinary Time, and this will go on till the end of November. No matter how the world treats us, we will continue to engage with God and with one another. We will continue to listen to His inner voice in the midst of all the noise, calamity and chaos. We will continue the spirit of praying together for healing and reconciliation in our relationships and in our families, communities and the world.
Let us always remember the Golden Rule – a principle of treating others as how we want others to treat us, which can be found from the Book of Tobit: “Do to no one what you would not want done to you… Give your bread to those who are hungry, your clothes to those who are naked… devote a proportion to almsgiving, and when you give alms, do it ungrudgingly. Ask the advice of every wise person. Bless the Lord in everything; beg Him to guide your ways and bring your paths and purposes to their end,” (Tobit 4: 15-19).
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy