VOICE FROM THE SOUTH
By FR. EMETERIO BARCELON, SJ
Lockdown has a hidden blessing. It is an opportunity for silence and prayer. Prayer according to St. John Damascene is to lift the heart and mind to God. Are we doing all the talking? Are we just asking? Do we listen to God in this conversation? Or is it a monologue where we do all the talking. This lockdown is a great opportunity to question our modes of behaviour. This lockdown is the opportunity to check on our spiritual temperature and our prayer modes. Are we just saying our prayers and not really praying or talking to God?
What do we really believe? We believe in the one God, that God is the source of being: the I AM. He told us that that is His Name: YAHWEH (I am WHO AM) as He appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our Biblical forefathers. He is not like the Greek gods who compete with humans but the very source of existence. We believe in the One God who created us and all the world. Why does He love us and all the world. He is the God of giving. All He wants to do is give — give us His love. He initiates the giving of grace. All we have to do reciprocate His love and graces. What does that mean? We just have to do our part.
In His love He created the world and man. Whatever happens we must not forget that He loves us. Man strayed away from His love but in His mercy He forgave man and took up the nature of man two thousand years ago. He lived, He taught and offered Himself on the cross to pay for man’s transgressions. At present He asks us to do something in memory of Him so that He can be with us for all eternity. This we do at Mass. This is the one devotion that coronavirus has suspended for us at the lockdowns. Our Sunday and daily Masses are supendeded cut the transmission of the virus. It is a big sacrifice for we are deprived of Jesus in a substantial form. We can offer Mass for non-priests only electronically or spiritually. In actuality we give it up temporarily because of coronavirus. This is the main belief of the Catholic Christian. This is the first and most important practice of the followers of Jesus Christ: offering up the Mass.
The second important practice of the Christian is the reading and meditating on the Bible. The Bible is not one book, it is a whole library of different genre of books which all lead to God. With the printing press we all can read the Bible with ease. Filipino Catholics have not kept up with the times. Fifteen minutes or half an hour will be sufficient every day. It is where God talks to us in a special way. We like to talk to God in prayer especially when we offer prayers of petition. In the Bible, there is the opportunity for us to hear what God has to say. The collection of books in the Bible has a wonderful variety — from the life of Jesus, to the letters of St. Paul, and the prophecies of the Old Testament. They have to be read and understood in their genre.
The third important practice is the Rosary of Our Lady. Just like God Himself appeared to Abraham and the prophets, in our times He allows Our Lady to appear to mankind to guide us on our way to heaven. The mysteries of the Rosary remind us of the life of Jesus when He lived here on earth about two thousand years ago. Her apparitions in Lourdes and Fatima have had a great effect on the lives of Christians in the past two hundred years.
The fourth important practice is going to confession. Our obligation is only once a year but it may be good to have the practice of going to confession every month. We know our clothes get dirty even if we do not go out of the house. We normally as Filipinos go to take a shower every day. The room accumulates dust even when the windows are shuttered. So too our souls need cleaning up at least every month. We also need to pray the Act of Contrition every night before we go to bed.
Lastly as Christians we have to fast and take care of the poor. During Lent especially, the Catholic fast has been reduced to two days a year — on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The regulation before was we fast for all of Lent’s forty days except Sundays. But we can fast more on our own because it is a great help to avoiding sin.