When we began the season of Lent 2020, the Church reminded us about the sacred 40 days of the Liturgical Year when we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the Paschal Mystery – Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection. However, since the Coronavirus outbreak, many activities, events and Masses have been suspended in our churches. Initially, we were just instructed and recommended to remove the Holy water at every entrance of the Church, sanitise our hands, and not shake hands during the greeting of peace. All these were to safeguard us against this virus. Unfortunately, as time went by, the World Health Organisation (WHO), government leaders, researchers and medical professionals have ordered us to stay at home, practice good hygiene and social distancing in order to reduce the possibility of contracting the Coronavirus.
Since 14 March 2020 and after the 2nd Sunday of Lent, the Church suspended all public Masses following the Movement Control Order (MCO) which was implemented on 18 March 2020. Now, the MCO has been extended till 14 April 2020 due to the increase in the number of Coronavirus cases in our country.
All of us felt disappointed when the extension of the MCO was announced, more so after reading the Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops of Malaysia dated 25 March 2020, wherein we were informed of the suspension of the Holy Week and Easter Triduum celebrations, amongst other matters. We have never experienced the suspension of the most solemn and glorious celebration of the Church in our lifetime thus far. It is the heart of the Catholic Church’s celebration and I ask myself – how could this happen to our faith?
I would like to pen down some of my thoughts and reflections, which were also echoed by various researchers, spiritual and political leaders, medical professionals, entrepreneurs, etc. In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, the whole world is repeatedly pleading with us to lockdown, distance ourselves from others, to stay at home, to stay safe and healthy, etc. When we look at the current COVID-19 pandemic throughout the world, it makes us scared, anxious and heartbroken. The number of infected people and deaths due to the virus is skyrocketing all over the world. We ask ourselves – what is happening? Why is God silent?
The whole world was moving ahead so rapidly but all of a sudden, everything came to a complete halt. Ever since the pandemic occurred, all cities and towns have shut down their activities and enforced lockdowns. National leaders, social media, medical professionals and even random people are reminding us repeatedly to stay at home, maintain social distancing, isolation, as well as self-quarantine, so as to be safe and healthy. When we spiritualise these keywords – lockdown, social distancing, stay at home and stay safe and healthy – surely these will help us to stay connected with God and with our inner selves, so that we may experience a spiritually and a physically healthy life. But why do we find it so difficult to strictly follow these basic rules as required under the MCO, especially staying at home and keeping a distance from one another? Looking at the situation surrounding us now, it is expected that the situation will be worse by the middle of April. Is God warning humanity?
All this while we have been driven by modern culture, science and technology. We have mis-used and abused our planet and all its resources. Since the beginning of 2020, God has been trying to teach humanity something through this Coronavirus pandemic. In the midst of our busy lives and our preoccupation with worldly matters, we have forgotten that God is in the midst of all this. Perhaps, this pandemic is an ‘interval’ period for us to be less self-indulgent and instead, it is meant for us to love and serve those around us.
Perhaps we have lost our human values due to selfishness, greed, egotism and materialism. Perhaps we have neglected our family, resulting in breakdowns and social problems. During this interval period, we should all be more accountable and responsible for the choices we make. We should make a new resolution to respect Mother Earth and its inhabitants, especially to treat the people around us with love and compassion. Let’s remember that nothing is permanent in this world and we will be tested so that we “may discern for ourselves what is the Will of God – what is good and acceptable and mature,” (cf. Rom 12:2).
We see with our own eyes, the “great disaster” of COVID -19, and realise that “Earth is sick.” All nations on this planet are being affected. We will be tested in this time of trial and eventually, this too shall pass. We pray for the world, especially for the researchers, medical professionals, doctors, nurses and health care workers who tirelessly face this battle head on. May they know our deep gratitude for all they are doing to heal those who are affected by the Coronavirus. May the Lord bless them in these challenging days. Heavenly Father, “Send forth Your Spirit and renew the face of the Earth,” (Ps 104:30).
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy