– Angela Chong
We have experienced a different Easter this year. Our hearts have been heavily weighed down by fear and worries over the past few months. In fact, the coronavirus outbreak seems to have been a curse cast on the entire earth, throwing our lives off course for a time.
In line with the anti-virus measures, church services and activities have been suspended to avoid crowds and gatherings. Churches are closed except during the short hour of the daily Mass. And seats have been so arranged as to set the churchgoers wide apart. It is only in recent weeks that parishioners have been granted the opportunity of the actual reception of the Holy Communion in church. Such acts of social distancing seem to have greatly undermined what used to be an intimate relationship between the believers.
The picture of Pope Francis administering his blessing to a desolate St Peter’s Square is a saddening sight. It pains us to see our kind Holy Father walking along the empty streets of Rome to pray in a lonely church for the coronavirus victims. Just like Jesus, who felt abandoned on the cross, could Pope Francis also have been asking why God had left him alone in these miserable times, incapable of saving his flock from the devastating attacks of the wolf-like virus?
Has God really forsaken the Pope? Has He forsaken us? Definitely not! Though not allowed long hours in church, we have been able to attend Sunday Mass broadcast live on the internet. The weekly hour is now a much- treasured family occasion. When the time comes, members who used to go to church separately, each at his own favored hour, attend the online Mass together, listening to the sermon with joined attention and responding to the celebrant unanimously. They exchange the sign of peace with an embrace much warmer than before, knowing that family peace is now a lost blessing in some parts of the world where the pandemic has claimed many lives. Indeed, there has been a remarkable growth in family harmony over the past three months.
In addition, online activities are available to help us Christians through the Lenten season. We are no less dedicated to Lenten activities such as the Way of the Cross, the Palm Sunday Procession and the Veneration of the Crucifix on Good Friday than we had always been when participating them personally. Lenten retreat materials of various kinds were also provided to serve different age groups and different communities. Consequently, all Christians, ranging from small Sunday school kids to long-time Christians, have had their craving for spiritual enlightenment much fulfilled.
Indeed, though the coronavirus pandemic may have kept people aloof from one another, we are united in prayer. While unable to make his usual address from a window overlooking St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis has been talking on giant screens via video from his private library, thus reaching every home with his warm regards.
Therefore, we can see the tough times as a test to our loyalty to God as well as our care for one another. It is hoped that the coronavirus pandemic will gradually be brought under control. While waiting for this to happen, however, let us look deep within and try to find out how the power of resurrection will heal and transform us. Let us also reflect on the need for greater environmental concern and for a healthier lifestyle. Indeed, despite the global pandemic threat, we have reasons to revel in the joy and peace that our Risen Lord has brought us.