POSTSCRIPT / April 14, 2020 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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‘Fear not -- I’ve risen, and I’m with you still’

WE have heard the good news of the Resurrection countless times, but with mankind threatened by a viral pandemic on top of other grave challenges, our spirit is still lifted when we hear the proclamation of Jesus Christ’s triumph over death.

Pope Francis proclaimed in his Urbi et Orbi message capping the Easter Sunday rites at St. Peter’s Basilica: “He has laid his hand upon us, firmly reassuring us: Do not be afraid, I have risen and I am with you still!”

If you are among those who dread catching the coronavirus amid the generally laggard and disorganized national response to the pandemic that disregards the social and economic status of its victims, watch a video recording of the Easter Sunday rites to boost your spirit.

While touching on conflicts in various parts of the world, the Pope’s message struck both a universal and a personal chord among those willing to listen with an open mind. It tossed a buoy of hope to those in distress.

The good news springs up in the night, the Pope said, and in the dark the Church’s voice rings out: “Christ, my hope, is risen!”

The Pontiff told us: “This is a different contagion, a message transmitted from heart to heart – for every human heart awaits this good news. It is the contagion of hope. This is no magic formula that makes problems vanish. No, the resurrection of Christ is not that. Instead, it is the victory of love over the root of evil, a victory that does not bypass suffering and death, but passes through them, transforming evil into good.

“My thoughts turn to the many who have been directly affected by the coronavirus: the sick, those who have died and family members who mourn the loss of their loved ones, to whom, in some cases, they were unable even to bid a final farewell. May the Lord of life welcome the departed into his kingdom and grant comfort and hope to those still suffering, especially the elderly and those who are alone.

“May he never withdraw his consolation and help from those who are vulnerable, such as persons who work in nursing homes, or live in barracks and prisons. For many, this is an Easter of solitude lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties.

“This disease has not only deprived us of human closeness, but also of the possibility of receiving in person the consolation that flows from the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and Reconciliation. In many countries, it has not been possible to approach them, but the Lord has not left us alone!

The Pope prayed for the doctors and nurses “who offer a witness of care and love for our neighbors, to the point of exhaustion and not infrequently at the expense of their own health… (also) to all who work diligently to guarantee the essential services necessary for civil society, and to the law enforcement and military personnel who help ease people’s difficulties and sufferings.”

He noted that the lives of millions of people have suddenly changed: “For many, remaining at home has been an opportunity to reflect, to withdraw from the frenetic pace of life, stay with loved ones and enjoy their company. For many, though, this is also a time of worry about an uncertain future, about jobs that are at risk and about other consequences of the current crisis.”

The Pope stressed that this is not a time for indifference, self-centeredness, division, and forgetfulness:

*Indifference — The suffering world needs to be united in facing the pandemic, especially for the poor, for those living on the peripheries, the refugees and the homeless. “May the most vulnerable in the cities and every part of the world not be abandoned. Let us ensure that they do not lack basic necessities such as medicine and health care. May international sanctions be relaxed, and the debt of the poorest nations be reduced, if not forgiven.”

*Self-centeredness – The challenge we face is shared by all those affected by the coronavirus. After the Second World War, Europe was able to rise again, thanks to a spirit of solidarity that enabled it to overcome past rivalries. It is urgent that these rivalries do not regain force, but that all recognize themselves as part of a single family and support one another.

*Division — May the appeal for an immediate global ceasefire be heeded. This is not a time for continuing to manufacture and deal in arms, spending vast amounts that ought to be used to care for others and save lives. May this be a time for finally ending the long war that has caused great bloodshed in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon. May this be the time when Israelis and Palestinians resume dialogue to find a lasting solution that will allow both to live in peace. May the sufferings of the people in the eastern regions of Ukraine end. May the terrorist attacks on innocent people in African countries stop.

*Forgetfulness — The crisis we face should not make us forget the other crises that bring suffering to so many. May the Lord of life be close to those in Asia and Africa who are experiencing grave humanitarian crises, as in the Province of Cabo Delgado north of Mozambique. May God protect refugees displaced by wars, drought and famine. May he protect migrants and refugees, many of them children, who live in unbearable conditions, especially in Libya and on the border between Greece and Turkey. In Venezuela, may ways be found to allow international aid to a suffering population.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 14, 2020)

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