The good news of COVID-19

40 Shades of Lent, Sunday Week III-A, 15 March 2020

Exodus 17:3-7 +++ Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 +++ John 4:5-42

Photo by author, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Lent Week III, 2020.

Lent 2020 will be a very unforgettable liturgical season in modern time due to pandemic COVID-19. And for a lot of good, spiritual reasons which we have taken for granted even disregarded for so long. Consider these:

First, due to COVID-19 more people are now praying and celebrating the Holy Mass, imploring for Divine intervention to end this pandemic that has claimed so many lives since December 2019. In disrupting our way of life, COVID-19 made us realize to treasure every opportunity to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass now being cancelled in many parts of the world, especially in our predominantly Catholic nation.

Second – most of all – in disrupting our flow and way of life, COVID-19 forces us today to reexamine our lives and values, our being Christians, of learning the true meaning of worshiping God “in Spirit and truth”.

Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

John 4:21-26

Water, Spirit, and truth in Jesus Christ

So typical of St. John’s rich symbolisms, our gospel today conveys many lessons for us about life and its meaning in this time of COVID-19.

Like the Samaritan woman, many of us are soul-searching, thirsting for God. How ironic that a virus – microscopic organisms – have laid bare everything that has been going wrong with us, from our faith and religious practices as well as in our exercise of choosing our leaders in government who have only worsened the tough situations we are into in these first three months of 2020.

Many of us have rightly turned back to God for answers in the wrong manner: we are merely praying, asking God’s help but we refuse to change. We are asking him for strength but we are not willing to ask for redirection. Most of all, we keep on asking God for encouragement but we do not want to be converted.

In the story of the Samaritan woman and Jesus, we find the need to set aside our own agendas in life in order to draw water from God himself.

Water evokes life and the Well, especially in the Old Testament, symbolizes God. The Well is where one meets God to have more life. This is the context of the Samaritan woman going to Jacob’s well even at noon time when it is hottest. Why? Because the Samaritan is in deep trouble. She’s a sinner and ostracized by the people in her town because as Jesus pointed out to her, though she did not have any husband, the man she was living with at that time was her sixth partner!

Here lies the beauty of the gospel: despite her state of life, of the darkness in her, she comes to the Well, that is, to God. And this time, “this hour” as Jesus told her, she met the Lord and her life was changed.

Photo by author, ancient well in the oasis of Elim in Egypt (May 2019) where Moses camped with Israelites going to Mt. Sinai.

She was so surprised at how could Jesus knew that truth about her that she totally forgot all about fetching water, leaving her jar and Jesus behind proclaiming the good news back in her town.

Jesus is not only the water who quenches our thirst for life and meaning but also the Spirit who animates us, moves us to be filled with life. He is the fullness of the living water spoken so often in the Old Testament that can be drawn from the Well.

Here we find the clear linkages of water, Spirit, and truth in Christ Jesus who comes, right in our midst in every celebration of the Eucharist and even in the midst of our many crises and sufferings.

Most of all, Jesus is also the new Jacob who opens for us the heavens by inaugurating for us a new kind of worship in Spirit and truth when he dies on the Cross on Good Friday. Remember how Jacob also called Israel saw in his dream a stairway to heaven with angels going up and down (Gen. 28). This time in Sychar, the evangelist is showing us how Jesus is the new Jacob or new Israel, leading us all into heaven he had opened for us with his sacrifice on the Cross.

From FB photo by Ms. Lane Blackwater, 12 March 2020.

In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jesus is coming right in our midst, reminding us to worship the Father in Spirit and truth through him by being more charitable with others like staying home when feeling sick, covering our mouth with mask or handkerchief when sneezing and coughing. Simply be considerate of others, be kind and be patient.

Check that beautiful account on Facebook by Ms. Lane Blackwater last Friday of some good Samaritans at a Landmark Supermarket.

According to Ms. Blackwater, it was a busy Wednesday evening with a lot of shoppers along with some hoarders probably when she overheard a pretty lady asking a Manong to get some more stuff for himself after seeing he just had a handful of groceries in his basket.

The lady assured Manong she would pay for everything. Manong was hesitant at first and eventually, took some more items, feeling so shy. But the nice lady insisted Manong to get more until eventually, some shoppers gave him canned goods while at the counter – all paid for by the many good Samaritans!

What a beautiful story about love in time of COVID-19!

From Facebook account of Ms. Lane Blackwater

Never test your God, for he cannot be outdone in generosity

I was teary eyed as I read that account by Ms. Blackwater, of how some people gave Manong additional groceries. It is the opposite of what the Israelites did while at Meribah and Massah of our first reading when they tested God in not having water to drink in the desert, asking “Is the Lord in our midst or not?” (Ex.17:7)

When you look at Manong, he appears to be a good person. I believe so. He must have felt God that evening. And most likely because he truly deserved it because, hopefully, he trusted in the Lord.

St. Paul rightly tells us in the second reading:

Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Romans 5:7-8

Jesus is surely with us in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, resting just like that hot noon in Sychar, waiting for anyone thirsting like the Samaritan woman. Let us learn the lessons of this crisis, let us worship in Spirit and truth to be amazed like the Samaritan woman. Or Manong at Landmark Supermarket.

A blessed Sunday and virus free week to you!

Photo by author, May 2019, Elim, Egypt.

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