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Days 9-11 RMO: Urbi et Orbi

26th -28th March 2020

As of today (28 March), Malaysia COVID-19 totals: 2,320 cases (Bintulu 5) & 27 deaths

Sorry I dropped off the radar a bit after my previous heartbreaking post.

It’s been 3 days since the Restricted Movement Order was extended to 14 April.

It STILL sucks.

I am STILL sad that we will be spending Holy Week and Easter in isolation from our Church communities.

It won’t ever not suck, but now I can see it in a different light.

Last night, no, it was actually very early at 1am this morning, Catholics around the world united together with Pope Francis via live streaming as he held the special Urbi et Orbi from the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica.

This extraordinary blessing was held for an end of the coronavirus pandemic, considering the gravity of the current global situation, as more than half of the world’s population is confined to their homes to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

This blessing is usually a colorful event reserved only for Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, but this time Pope Francis was standing in a deserted St. Peter’s Square speaking to the world through the means of online live streams, as a steady rain fell…

The scripture reading from the Gospel of Mark (The Calming of the Storm) made me recall the time I was in the Holy Land and we were on a boat on the Sea of Galilee… It was calm on that day like on most days (our guide told us), so you can imagine how the disciples felt when all of a sudden the calmness was replaced by a storm. They were terrified! And I remember what we reflected on on that day: It didn’t matter whatever Storm we have in our lives; all that mattered was that Jesus was in the boat with us!

This time, Pope Francis reminded me again of this in his Scripture meditation. The full text of his meditation can be found here, but these parts (especially those I have bolded) struck me with regards to the situation we have now:

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often forgotten people – who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.

The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.

Right after the live stream ended, the church community that I am with here started sharing in our whatsapp group how peaceful we all felt after the Urbi et Orbi. I shared that it would have been nice if I had Padre Pio’s gift of bilocation so that I could’ve been right there at St. Peter’s Basilica with Pope Francis. It was our spiritual advisor, a priest, who replied to me that really completely calmed the sea in my heart. His reply:

There is no need for bilocation. His, Jesus, presence is omnipresent. He is here with us always even when the Pope was leading us in prayer all the way from the Vatican.

Indeed, He is present with us – even if we are only able to join Masses via live streaming.

And like every other storm that has ever happened in our lives, this too shall pass.

He is with us and we need not be afraid.