[REFLECTIONS] Glimpses of God’s presence amid a pandemic

Father Antonio Moreno, SJ

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[REFLECTIONS] Glimpses of God’s presence amid a pandemic
Good Friday may have come too soon for us, but in hope we will experience Easter

 It’s a first in world history: an online Holy Week for millions of people, even in Vatican City, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Rappler presents a series of reflections to help you, our reader, enter the spirit of Holy Week even in quarantine.


Father Antonio Moreno, SJ, delivered the following Lenten homily on March 23, in an online Mass livestreamed by Radyo Katipunan. The homily is based on the First Reading from Isaiah 65:17-21 and the Gospel from John 4:43-54. Rappler is republishing this with his permission in observance of Holy Week 2020.

Today’s readings speak about hope, not sheer optimism; not positive thinking, but hope.

In the First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah, it says: “Thus says the Lord: Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead there shall be rejoicing and happiness in what I create; for I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight; I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people.” The promise “to create new heavens and a new earth” only makes sense if we have faith in the Lord. Our hope is not based on our analysis or positive thinking or human efforts alone, but on faith in the Lord like what the royal official in the Gospel did: he believed in the healing power of the Lord and his son was healed.  

The foretelling of “new heavens and a new earth” is not an empty promise. Our faith testifies that it will indeed come – not in our terms, not in our time, but in God’s terms, in God’s time. When we pray the “Our Father,” we say: “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It is not our kingdom, but God’s. It is not our will, but God’s. Sometimes without our knowing it, God visits us, and God’s reign is already in our midst. But since we have some expectations about how God should arrive, we miss the point.

This pandemic, however dreadful, is not the final word in our faith journey. The final word is life, new heavens and a new earth. Our hope founded on faith in the Lord assures us that death will not be the final word in this battle. We take consolation in this. Let us not wallow in desperation. Or worse, let us not think that this pandemic is about God’s wrath because of our stubbornness. Some people think this is God’s punishment so that the stubborn will be converted. Calamities, destructions, evils, and deaths did not disappear during the time of Jesus and even after his resurrection. Our God is loving, and in the midst of all these difficulties, God’s love is constant. God remains so near to us. God has not abandoned us. God did not eliminate pain and suffering, instead God gave us hope.

Interestingly enough, in these times of crisis, there are some positive energies of solidarity, of sharing of resources, of rich and poor coming together. I know some rich people sharing their resources to feed the poor. I know some hotels and school properties that are used as places of quarantine and as safe havens for the frontliners. Jollibee is giving away P100 million ($1.97 million) worth of food for the frontliners. Generous donations are given away to help the poor and jobless at this time. All is not doom and gloom.

There are glimpses of God’s presence in our lives in moments of suffering and pain. It may not always be the way we want God to intervene, but there is still hope, and God is here with us and has not abandoned his promise to create “new heavens and a new earth.” And we are invited to play our part; not to add more to the panic that there is, not to share with others fake and unverified news, not to be negative and desperate; but to bear the pain and suffering, find creative ways to feed the hungry and equip our frontliners and be in solidarity with our world.

Good Friday may have come too soon for us, but in hope we will experience Easter. – Rappler.com

Father Antonio Moreno, SJ, is president of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific. He is former provincial superior of the Philippine Jesuits and former president of Ateneo de Zamboanga University.

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