Beating the crowning virus
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - March 29, 2020 - 12:00am

Someone likened the coronavirus to the crown of thorns, a symbol of torment leading to the crucifixion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel says the crown was placed on Jesus’ head to cause Him pain and mock His Holiness. Jesus’ passion is commemorated every year during the Lenten season, starting with Ash Wednesday and ending before Easter Sunday when the Lord is risen from the dead. It is during Lent where Christians and believers renew their faith in God, refocus their lives in line with Jesus’ teachings, ask forgiveness for their shortcomings, do penance and show their love to the Lord who gave up His life to deliver mankind from sin.

This year, the Lenten season began last Feb. 26. Curiously, the coronavirus pandemic hit its stride during Lent, causing a widespread outbreak all over the world. Every day, statistics show a rise in coronavirus cases and coronavirus-related deaths. Over a half a million people have been infected with more than 27,000 deaths recorded. In 2002-03, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) infected 8,000 and caused 800 deaths. In 2012, the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) infected 2,500 with about 900 deaths. So, coronavirus is by far the deadliest virus to emerge in the millennium.

The other day, Pope Francis delivered an address during the extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing at the Vatican. He prayed for faith, called on everyone to trust in God and spoke of the urgency of renewal in this storm. “Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith,” the Holy Father said. “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.”

Clearly, the world is at war today. But unlike the previous world wars, the conflict is not between or among countries. It’s the entire world against a disease that is wreaking havoc on the lives of every person on the planet. Economies are in a shambles and there is no distinction whether a country is First World or not. There is also no distinction whether a person is of “stature” or not. The virus doesn’t choose its victims. Royalty, high government officials and billionaires are just as vulnerable as the ordinary man on the street. This is a timely reminder that when a person of so-called “stature” passes away, his ashes are no different from the remains of a person who was not quite as distinguished. Life is temporary and it is fleeting. Some people make it an obsession to accumulate wealth and power at the expense of others, showing no sensitivity for those who have less in life. This crisis is a lesson that when all is said and done, the legacy of goodness one leaves behind is what matters most. 

Will the world ever return to normalcy? Now is not the time to despair. Pope Francis said we must have faith, hope and love. There appears to be a reason why this crisis came about during Lent. When Easter comes, we will celebrate the resurrection of the risen Christ and hope to celebrate the end of the coronavirus.

For sure, the world will never be the same again. Even our vocabulary has been severely redirected to terms like PPEs (personal protective equipment), social distancing, flattening the curve, pandemic, respirator, ventilator, PUIs (persons under investigation) and PUMs (persons under monitoring). Our way of life has changed. We’re constantly washing our hands. We’re careful not to touch our faces. We’re disinfecting things that could be virus carriers. Suddenly, it’s no longer a priority to plan the family’s next vacation. The priority is to keep the family intact, safe and healthy. Staying at home to contain the spread of the virus has become an important guideline.

The battle to overcome the virus starts with everyone of us. We should stay strong, physically and spiritually, whether we’re frontliners, first responders or community servers. In this war, we’re all influencers. If we’re staying home, we’re influencers, too, because in a way, we’re the first line of defense. This crisis has also given long overdue recognition to the unsung heroes of society – the health care workers, nurses, medical practitioners, grocery baggers, the pharmacists in drug stores, the food delivery men, policemen, service providers, barangay officials and the sincere politicians, all of whom risk their lives for the greater good. This struggle will end, hopefully, sooner than later, and humanity will get a second chance to be closer to God, to be more sensitive and caring of each other and to cherish the important things in life – faith in the Lord, selflessness and love of family and fellow man. We will overcome.

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