By FR. JOEY GANIO EVANGELISTA, MJ
Malita Tagakaulo Mission
Diocese of Digos, Malita, Davao Occidental
1 Kings 19:9, 11-13
The things happening around us right now seem more like elements from a sci-fi thriller. An unknown virus killing people from all walks of life: young, old, women, men, rich, poor; medical experts unable to control its spread and scientists racing against time to make a vaccine; people panicking and rushing to stores and supermarkets to buy food and supplies; and world leaders helpless in the face of a pandemic. All of these are ingredients of a sci-fi thriller that we would normally watch to escape the humdrum of real life. Reality check. That sci-fi thriller is now our reality and the humdrum of what used to be real life is now a memory we all want to go back to. The bad news is we are unable to turn this reality off just like a movie. This is life now wherever we go. There is no escaping it. This is the new normal.
People often ask, “When will this all end?” My honest response is, “I do not know.” I do not know of anyone who has information with regard to the timeline of this pandemic. Even scientists dare not give a timeline as to when this pandemic could end. Their wise counsel is often how to avoid being infected and how to prevent and contain outbreaks. Only someone with a delusional disorder would dare predict the end of this global crisis. It is easy to despair during such times because the unknown far outweighs that which we have knowledge of. Fear could easily overwhelm us because we are no longer in control. Despite what humanity has achieved through the centuries and the short decades just before this pandemic, we were beginning to think that we had somehow sorted everything out. There were still some unknowns here and there but nothing that science could not decipher in time. Covid-19 is now making us rethink all that.
Where is God in all this? There would be doomsayers who would claim that God had sent this virus to punish humanity. As Christians we know that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). God most certainly is not in this virus. There are those who are putting all their faith in the development of a vaccine that they have become oblivious to everything and everyone to the point of making the vaccine their god. There a number who have made the economy their god willing to sacrifice the health of people on the altar of economic growth firm in their belief that money will make this pandemic go away. And there are those who are tempted to think that they are faraway from God because they are no longer able to frequent their church as they had used to. So, where is God in all this? The story of Elijah reminds us that God is not in power that can destroy mountains, shake the earth nor in power that can destroy everything. Elijah found God in a tiny whispering sound. In the midst of this pandemic, where is God? God is in every act of kindness that we extend to the people around us especially those who have lost much. In the midst of all the efforts that are being done to defeat this virus, in the midst of all the fear, doubt, desperation, anger, and frustration, an act of kindness is like a tiny, insignificant whispering sound. And yet it is there where hope springs anew. God is there.
The story of Jesus walking on the water toward his disciples as they were being tossed about by the waves urges us to bring this hope to the many people who are today being tossed about by the waves of fear, doubt, desperation, anger, and frustration because of this global pandemic. It is not enough that we know where God is in this pandemic; like Jesus, we are being sent to bring this hope to those who are in most in need of it even if they doubt. God is a God who comes to us first. Jesus came walking toward his disciples and calmed the wind despite their fear and doubt. In the midst of the incessant rise of infections both locally and globally, Christians are admonished not to cower in fear while our boat is tossed about by uncertainty, we are called to step out of the boat to help and not allow fear to overwhelm us. The greatest challenge for us is to rethink how to help people in need in the face of a highly infectious disease.
The many frontliners in this global crisis are showing us the way. Despite the high risk to themselves and to their loved ones by extension, they have not ceased helping the sick, accompanying the lonely, feeding the hungry, giving the thirsty to drink, consoling those who are grieving, and being there even when they should have been with their families. They do this with no fanfare and without counting the cost. Laboring quietly, their sole aim that their patient gets better. As we are tossed about by uncertainty and fear, Jesus comes to us in our frontliners assuring us that all will be well. Their silent labor of love, selflessly coming to the aid of Covid-19 patients, reminds us that God is here and there is hope. We are invited to do the same.
Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing ,reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).