Rejoicing in the Time of Corona

40 Shades of Lent, Sunday Week IV-A, 22 March 2020

1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13 +++ Ephesians 5:8-14 +++ John 9:1-41

Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan, Philippines.

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent known in its Latin verb form “Laetare Sunday” when the liturgy calls us to rejoice because Easter is fast approaching.

But how can we rejoice in the midst of an “enhanced community quarantine” or lockdown, when we cannot even come to church to celebrate the Sunday Mass together, when so many people are dying while millions of others face uncertainties with the widespread disruptions and problems in life caused by COVID-19 worldwide.

On this date is also my 55th birthday – but, no worries, the more I rejoice in the Lord almost alone. Thank you for all the greetings that have been pouring since yesterday. As I was telling you last Sunday, COVID-19 has brought some blessings or good news too for us.

Let us rejoice in the Lord today because he has not left us, the more we feel him present with us, thanks or no thanks to Corona virus.

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”

John 9:1-3

Our “blaming game” vs. light of Christ

More than ever as we suffer through this pandemic of COVID-19, many of us have again resorted to that old myth that whenever something bad happens to us, especially sickness, it is always taken as a punishment from God.

It is totally untrue because nothing bad can come from God. Many times in our lives, we become artificially blind that despite our gift of sight we fail and even refuse to see the truth and realities in us and around us, even in front of us!

What happens is our tendency to blame others like in that question to Jesus, who sinned – the parents or the man himself that he was born blind?

This is the problem with our “blaming game” : we are blinded from taking responsibilities for our acts that we would rather blame others even God for everything bad that happens to us. There are more times that there is no one to be blamed at all like our genes or Mother Nature; we just have to accept things as they are.

And that’s one lesson we must learn fast: there can be no rejoicing when there is no self-acceptance.

How funny and sad that less than a week since our Luzon-wide lockdown, many of us have been quarreling on-line on almost everything we see and hear on TV and the social media that has led to bashing and nasty exchanges of words, even breakdowns. Very funny, and tragic when we focus on non-essentials, almost forgetting COVID-19.

How tragic that some chose to hide facts and truths that have caused the lives of others, too. This is the dark reality of our blaming game – we never admit anything wrong about us.

See beyond external things. Try seeing also how God is working in our midst as Jesus offers us in this holy season of Lent the best way to deal with our present situation by returning to him, by believing in him.

Photo by author, Baliwag, Bulacan (25 February 2020).

Have you noticed the many little miracles happening in some families now together, praying together, staying together?

One reason for rejoicing this fourth Sunday of Lent is perhaps everyone’s hope that after this COVID-19 episode, we all start a new chapter of renewed relationships and bonds, of fresh outlooks after rediscovering the value of life and every person again.

Jesus spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam”- which means Sent. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

John 9:6-7

Here again is the presence of water like in last Sunday’s story to remind us of the Sacrament of Baptism which is closely tied with the season of Lent. St. John had translated the meaning of Siloam as “Sent” to stress that Jesus is the Christ, the One sent to cleanse us and wash away our blindness caused by sins and evil.

Another reason to rejoice this Sunday! Most especially now many of us realize the value of the Holy Mass, especially the Sunday Eucharist we used to take for granted before. Every time we celebrate the Mass, we perfect the Baptism we have received when we are washed and refreshed anew in Jesus through his words and Body and Blood.

It is only when we stop blaming others when we begin to see our true selves, when changes finally begin to happen in us.

Like God, let us try to see things and persons beyond what is physical. In the first reading, God chose David over his elder and better brothers who would later defeat Goliath to become Israel’s greatest king from whose lineage came Jesus Christ.

Jesus on the Cross, our true joy

Photo by author, Lent 2019, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan, Phils.

The moment we remove Jesus in our lives, when we refuse to acknowledge him as our Lord and Savior, that is also when we are blinded by sin, especially by pride.

Do we not see this so true that led one way or the other to this pandemic?

We have totally turned away from God and his ways, following our greedy paths of power and wealth. We have long been distant from one another despite the great advances in modern communications that have also brought us farther away from God as we spend more time with our gadgets.

We can never rejoice for ourselves and for others when we are far from Jesus Christ. In his very unique manner of looking at things, St. John presents to us some funny contrasts in the story of the man born blind that we also see happening in this COVID-19 pandemic.

Our Tabernacle, Laetare 2019.

First is when the people doubted the man healed by Jesus was himself the one “who used to sit and beg”, despite his clear declaration of “I am”. We have experienced this so many times when others doubt we can rise and become better.

How sad these past days we have seen how some people have been so mean especially with younger and newer leaders who have risen against the threats of COVID-19, shooting down their efforts, even to the point of maligning and even threatening them. It is as if they are the only “anointed ones” with whom God can work with.

Second is the attitude of the parents of the man born blind: betrayers are the worst kind of artificially blind people. Like the parents of the man born blind, they refused to vouch for his identity and healing for fears of being banned from temple worship.

Ouch! for us in the church with our “holier-than-thou-attitude” especially with those closest with us like family members and friends. Like Judas Iscariot, sometimes those supposed to be dearest to us are blinded by money, power, and fame that they also betray and dump us.

Where has all the love gone for one another, for the country?

In the sacristy, Laetare 2019.

Lastly, there are those supposed to be learned ones but unfortunately blinded simply by lack of faith in God like those Pharisees who refused to believe the man born blind’s story of healing as well as to recognize Jesus as the Christ.

Observe the attitudes of the Pharisees who claimed to know “this man, Jesus, is a sinner” because he healed on a Sabbath while the man born blind retorted “I do not know (Jesus) but how come he had healed me?”

What a tragic comedy! It is the root of the mess we are into today of so many learned men and women pretending to know so much but totally incompetent and ignorant of the realities going on, who do not care at all with the plight of the masses!

Both the whole world and our country are in deep darkness today with so many blind leaders and followers alike. Let us heed St. Paul’s reminder not to be blinded, to stop blaming others and to start confronting ourselves in the light of Jesus Christ.

“Take no part in fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.”

Ephesians 5:11-14

Rejoice for an enlightened Sunday and new week for everyone despite COVID-19. Amen.

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