March 2020 seemed a normal month to me, with events for work, family and community being planned meticulously. Then like a time bomb, COVID-19 exploded. One has only to open the news and hear the daily feed that dominates the ravaging effects of this pandemic.
When bad times like these happen, when we could not lay blame on anyone or nothing seems to help, we start turning our stare on God, maybe even censuring Him for allowing it.
Then we ask “how long O Lord will you forget me forever…how long will you hide your face from me?” David in Psalm 13:1 cried to God, filled with anguish because his enemies succeeded in defeating him.
At present, there seems to be no let up with this virus and many of us are losing patience. Our “instant” generation demands these issues be solved promptly. Waiting is a chore, a burden, a drain, a fearful challenge and on obstacle to our goals. Five months seem an eternity.
I have not always been a patient person. When I was younger, trained as a teacher, I was always on time or ahead of it. I was annoyed by waiting. If a friend was late, I would walk off our meeting place without much mercy. If I wanted something to happen, I would do everything possible without much reflection.
Thank God those days are over! When I started a personal relationship with Jesus, one of the first fruits He wanted me to bear was patience. Almost all my trials were on this virtue, until I was able to slowly conquer my bad habits with the grace of the Holy Spirit. My healing from daily dizziness took 10 years!
People still keep me waiting when I schedule a meeting. Many plans don’t materialise overnight. Circumstances happen to test my patience. But what has changed?
Leo Carver in his blog shared: “patience is really more of a skill—one that can be learned and needs constant nurturing. Patience is the state of being that occurs between experience and reaction. Whether you’re trying to be patient with yourself, others, or life, it seems to always involve the experience of dealing with delays or obstacles. By cultivating a practice of patience, you’re able to let go of things outside your control and live with less stress, anxiety, and frustration.”
Patience in the Bible is presented as either forbearance or endurance. In the former sense, it is a quality of self-restraint or of not giving way to anger, even in the face of provocation; it is attributed to both God and man and is closely related to mercy and compassion. It is the capacity for enduring pain. It is serenity. Father Jerry Orbos, one of my favourite priests in the Philippines reminds us: “Focus on the blessings, not on what is missing!”
Many Bible scholars say that COVID-19 is apocalyptic – an event involving destruction or damage on a catastrophic scale; it is also a disclosure or revelation of knowledge. What then is COVID-19 revealing to us?
COVID-19 revealed unpleasant truths I would rather not face – that I can live much simpler and do not need all the material things I constantly crave. Since COVID-19, I have not bought a new dress – I survived in track pants, or even pjs and bathrobe all day! I have learned to prepare meals at home, not depending too much on take-away.
I have been able to walk daily, the quiet time together with my hubby became a time for dialogue. I found out that my body yearned for naps, rest and relaxation. Although I sleep later, hooked onto most of the live-streamed Masses and teachings on social media, I have no pressure to wake up early. There is ample time to pray, reflect, and participate in engaging conversations over the phone. My diary is not dominated by meetings, which, although gave me significance, the “shoulds” and the “musts” have been temporarily purged.
August is the month of the Blessed Mother for us Catholics. A model of virtues – simplicity, humility, obedience, patience, serenity, purity, compassion, forgiveness – I could learn much from her. They are “odd” virtues in our world today, where the opposites are the “norm”. Yet the current crisis calls us to hold on to these qualities. We gain wisdom and inner strength, trusting in God’s promise “that no enemy is so near that God is not nearer.”
There are many homilies about Jesus in the Storm (Mark 4:35-40). Was Jesus asleep or oblivious to what was going on with His disciples? We need to remember Jesus was in the boat with His disciples – not in a far-off warm home where he was enjoying a sumptuous meal. He was in the boat with them. Sinking. Then He calmed the storm. I am praying that my patience and trust in Him won’t fail and that my small faith will get me through to the moment when Jesus commands the tempest: “Peace. Be still.” May we also in the same Psalm (13: 5-6) declare like David: “But I trusted in your steadfast love, my heart shall rejoice in my salvation. I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.”
(For comments or feedback, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
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