Lamenting in time of quarantine

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 03 May 2020
Photo by author, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan. April 2020.

Against the advice of good friends, I went out to distribute Holy Communion in the streets to some parishioners who have participated in our Sunday Mass early this morning at Facebook Live.

I know the risks involved despite our best efforts in having all the precautionary measures but, what convinced me to go on with it is a beautiful Psalm so appropriate during this quarantine period.

As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.

My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God?

Psalm 42:2-3
Photo from Reddit.

Sometime in March, I had some blues when I came across a reflection in one of the blogs I follow that soothed me like a gentle caress from God himself that I began praying Psalm 42 again (https://prodigalthought.net/2020/03/02/lament-in-silence/#comments).

And when our quarantine period was extended for the second time before the end of Holy Week last month, I began praying again Psalm 42 every night for that is when I truly long for God so much, most of the time lamenting to him our situation, my condition of being alone in my rectory.

This is the first time I felt like this, so different from those so-called “desolation” or “dryness” because I could feel God present in my prayers but… he is not “fresh”.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Like the deer longing for streams of water, my soul longs for God too.

Not just like the water we buy from a filling station but exactly what the deer yearns for — fresh water that is refreshingly cool not only on your face but deep into your body when sipped amid the burbling sounds of the spring, babbling through rocks and branches of trees with the loamy aroma of earth adding a dash of freshness in you.

Admittedly, sometimes I wonder if I still know how to pray or if I still pray at all!

I can feel God present but he is like someone stacked there in my mind, in my memory, in my ideas shaped by my years of learning and praying.

What I am longing for is a God so alive, so true not only in me but also in another person.

And that is when I realized, most likely, my parishioners must be longing for God too in the same way — the God we all come to meet and celebrate with every Sunday in our little parish, among the people present who are so alive, so vibrant, so true, so touching.

Our empty church since March due to COVID-19.

Psalm 42 is believed to have been sang by David when he was prevented from coming to the tent of God either during the reign of King Saul who plotted to kill him or during the revolt of his own son Absalom when he was already the king of Israel.

Like David or the psalmist, I miss celebrating Mass with my parishioners.

And maybe it is safe to assume that two or three of my parishioners are also feeling the same way with me and David, saying these to the Lord:

My tears have been my food day and night, as they ask daily, “Where is your God?”

Those times I recall as I pour out my soul,

When I went in procession with the crowd, I went with them to the house of God,

Amid loud cries of thanksgiving, with the multitude keeping festival.

Psalm 42:4-5

If there is one very essential thing this pandemic has brought back to us in our very busy lives, it is most certainly God. And if ever this is one thing people need most in this time of corona virus, it is spiritual guidance and nourishment from God through his priests.

Of course, people can pray and talk to God straight as the Pope had reminded us before Holy Week.

But, human as we are, we always experience God and his love, his kindness, his mercy, his presence among other people who guide us and join us in our spiritual journey. They are special people like friends or relatives or pastors with whom they can be themselves, let off some steam, get some rays of light of hope and encouragement.

And that this is why I try to keep in touch with my parishioners in various ways in this time of corona: even I myself can feel so low and dark despite my prayers and very condition of living right here in the house of God who can still feel alone and desolate, even depressed.

If I – a priest – go through all these uncertainties and doubts this in this time of quarantine, how much more are the people, the beloved sheep of Jesus the Good Shepherd?

Why are you downcast, my soul; why do you groan within me?

Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God.

Psalm 42:6
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 10 April 2020.

After our Mass this morning when we set out to distribute the Holy Communion, there was a little drizzle. It did not last long that I just wore a hat and left my umbrella in the rectory.

There were about 30 people who waited for us to receive Holy Communion, most of them along the main highway that stretched to about 2 kilometers. Some families gathered with a little altar at their front gate while a waited a couple waited in a gas station along our route.

In less than 20 minutes, we have completed our mission and as we headed back to the parish, the rains fell again, this time stronger than before.

My driver commented, “The weather cooperated with us, Father”1

I just nodded my head to him inside his tricycle but deep inside me, I felt joy because God answered my prayer, my lamentations for he was crying too, – for me and his people.

May this lamentation be an answer to your lamentations during this pandemic of COVID-19.

Continue with your lamentations to God our Father for this very act of crying out to him is the working of the Holy Spirit he had sent us through our Lord Christ Jesus. Amen.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 26 April 2020.

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