During this season of Lent, the novel Coronavirus is taking a toll on our society in general and in every single aspect of our lives. Particularly, in our local Church, a week has passed without the public celebration of the Holy Mass. Practically, all sacraments are not going to be performed until further notice, except in extreme danger of death. It has been very painful for all shepherds around the world who cannot be with their sheep. Our first instinct, as shepherds, is to run into the fire to rescue them; but here in our diocese, we are obedient to our bishop and health officials who are advising us and ordering us to stay home.
What we do not want to do is to continue spreading this deadly virus. For me, it has been a time of reflection and more prayer. I was neglecting my prayer life and this pandemic has given me the opportunity to increase my time of prayer in solitude.
My reflection for today will be focused on our own journey as Catholic Christians and especially in the Passion of the Lord; to be more specific, the third sorrowful mystery: The Crowning With Thorns. During this difficult time of the coronavirus pandemic, I want to reflect also about this pandemic and the etymology of the term: Coronam or corona https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=corona is latin for crown; virus (venom) https://www.etymonline.com/word/virus ‘a substance produced in the body as the result of disease, especially one capable of infecting others’. A virus is an invisible tiny microorganism that is smaller than a bacterium that cannot grow or reproduce apart from a living cell. As you may know, this virus resembles a crown with many spikes. The crown of thorns has many spikes too. In the picture that I drew, I am portraying how the power of Christ can destroy the power of evil. This is not one of the plagues of Egypt but certainly is a threat against humanity. I always recommend meditation with Psalm 91 during times of natural disasters or emergencies: “nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.” Psalm 91, 6.
Anyways, this is a reflection between the Crowning of Thorns suffered by our Lord and our own suffering with the coronavirus pandemic. It is not only the coronavirus our own crown of thorns. Our own crown of thorns (someone can call the cross that we are carrying) could be mental health issues, addiction, laziness, anger, etc… but what kind of crown of thorns is placed in your head? isolation? social distance? loneliness? Whatever is your answer to this question, I just want to see the positive aspects of how this pandemic is uniting us as a family and as a Church. As we are forced to spend more time together as a family be are distant only physically from the temple, but we are not distant spiritually speaking; we are closer than ever. When I see the family portraits and the pictures sent to our parish and now are placed in the pews, I feel that you are really present.
I know that for many Christians, being deprived of the Body and Blood of Christ is a huge crown of thorns. This time what we live only once a year on Good Friday (no having Communion) is extended indefinitely. Our suffering with the Lord will be turned into a time of rejoicing in which we will celebrate Mass as normal. Hopefully, our Churches will be full as our confessionals. With regards to the Eucharist, a few days ago, we were half the way during this season Lent. I want to quote Benedict XVI prior to his election as Pope:
“Since apostolic times, no doubt, the fast from the Eucharist on Good Friday was a part of the Church’s spirituality of communion. This renunciation of communion on one of the most sacred days of the Church’s year was a particularly profound way of sharing in the Lord’s Passion; it was the Bride’s mourning for the lost Bridegroom (cf. Mk 2:20). Today too, I think, fasting from the Eucharist, really taken seriously and entered into … could lead to a deepening of a personal relationship with the Lord in the sacrament.”https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2020/03/19/joseph-ratzinger-on-fasting-from-the-eucharist/
From my point of view, we are living not only the season of Lent but a process of purification. We have seen how the lack of faith, abortion, gender ideology, attacks against the traditional family and relativism have taken over our Christian values. Nowadays, talking and preaching about God has become for the majority something outcast and cause of rejection. But there are reasons to have hope in the future. I have received several emails and requests through social media for the need for counseling, confession, the Holy Mass and the sacraments in general. Among those requests, I am just offering virtual counseling through skype or zoom. We keep encouraging our faithful to keep watching the Holy Mass through our webpage at www.stpeterstpaul.com
The Corona-virus and the Crown of thorns altogether will not stop us from going all the way from the Garden of Gethsemane to Calvary: the way of the cross. Through Calvary, we are going to the crucifixion, and from the tomb to the resurrection. The resurrection of our faith is awaiting and we will see a new awakening in which the Lord will be the center of our lives again in the Eucharist. That is our hope meanwhile we can do spiritual communion and keep our faith while watching and participating in the Mass from home. I am suffering with you, but I will rejoice with you… The time will come…