Due to this year’s coronavirus there is apprehension and anxiety leading up to Christmas. Bishop Ruperto Santos suggests cultivating three virtues as a way to counteract a widespread pessimism in preparation for the holy season: be fearless, be faithful and be fruitful.
PUBLISHED ONJan 2021
This year the surroundings are awfully strange. There is no such thing as longing for the coming Christmas. Instead, there is apprehension and anxiety. Rather than joy, there is despair and impending misery. Why? This is because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, our Christmas this year will be like no other.
We can say that what we feel today happened then, on the very first Christmas. Mary and Joseph were in the same condition we are currently in. What they did then is what we should meditate on, remember, and live out. Let us focus on what is really important. What are they? First, be fearless. Second, be faithful. And finally, be fruitful.
Do Not Be Afraid
First, be fearless (walang takot). Joseph was confused. He could not understand that Mary “before they lived together, was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1, 18). He had a plan to “divorce her in all secrecy” (Matthew 1, 19). But Joseph was told in a dream, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife” (Matthew 1, 20).
We have questions that we are searching for answers. Like maybe “why did this COVID-19 happen? How can we be saved? When will we recover? Will there be a vaccine?”
Let us trust in the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, and confidently hand everything over to His care. Let us firmly believe that He will never neglect us nor forsake us. He will help, protect, and save us from all the calamities and diseases caused by this COVID-19. The Lord God is our answer. He will provide healing. Do not be afraid. Come to Him, and fully believe.
Perhaps, Joseph and Mary were intensely anxious whether they will have a place to stay in Bethlehem (Luke 2, 4-6) or someone will take them in when they get to Egypt. (Matthew 2, 13-15). But they were not afraid. Even when no one let them in, they did not let fear overcome them.
It is the Lord God whom we should fear if we haven’t done anything for Him during this COVID-19 pandemic. Let us be more fearful if we haven’t extended help to our fellow human beings who are suffering because of this pandemic.
Secondly, be faithful (matapat). Joseph not only listened but he did exactly what was asked of him to do, “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do” (Matthew 1, 24). Mary also listened. She agreed and submitted herself, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you have said” (Luke 2, 38).
Christmas for us sometimes meant beautiful clothes, delicious food, and fancy gifts. Often, our attention is focused on the pleasures, arrangements of the house and the beautification of one’s body. We forget the true meaning and the reason for Christmas, who is none other than Jesus. We have replaced Him or set Him aside.
Now that we are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, we come to realize how important the Lord God is and how much we need Him in our life. He is omnipotent. He is our salvation. COVID-19 made the reality evident that in the end, our power and wealth can do nothing. Our titles or positions are also of no help or significance. There is a limit to our abilities and beauty. Only the Lord God is the answer to all. He will bring us healing and salvation.
So like Joseph and Mary, let us listen to the Lord God. Follow Him. And most of all, be sincerely devoted to Him no matter what the events in our life may be.
Test Of Our Faith
Being faithful to God when times are hard can be a true test of our faith. One way we can show our faithfulness is by listening to what God wants us to do, even when the situation seems to be difficult, painful, or impossible.
Joseph and Mary were certainly faithful by staying on course even under the most challenging circumstances. Mary bearing a child before marriage back then was considered a ground for being stoned to death or was tantamount to Joseph breaking their betrothal.
But their faithfulness to God strengthened and enabled them to overcome all the hardships that came their way. Listening to what God wanted them to do led to the greatest story ever told–the birth of our Savior and the salvation of mankind.
Let us not be like the innkeepers who refused to accept Mary and Joseph in their time of need. Instead, let us be like the humble shepherds who not only listened to the angel and welcomed the good news with open hearts but also hastily left their sheep to greet Christ at His arrival, in the form of a baby in the manger.
Lastly, be fruitful (mabunga). Despite the hardships and trials that Joseph and Mary endured, they survived. In spite of the fact that no one knew them and they knew nobody, they were eventually accepted and had a place to stay. Despite the danger and apprehension of traveling, they arrived safely. Their journey was fruitful.
We Will Succeed
Because of this COVID-19, we are all afraid and anxious. Coronavirus is not selective in who to infect. We are all in danger of COVID-19. But let us remember that through the Lord God we can overcome everything. We will succeed. You and I will be saved. We will recover. We will be fruitful and life will be abundant.
Let us stay away from the commercialism that we have been accustomed to associate with Christmas. With the distractions minimized and even in the middle of nothingness, we can now focus more on what is important: the birth of Jesus.
Let us abandon the materialism that has consumed our society and instead, fervently ask God in the silence of our hearts, to reveal to us what the message of this COVID-19 pandemic has in our life. He will unravel it to us if we earnestly seek Him.
Let us take this time to contemplate and mature in our prayer life. This is the perfect opportunity to focus on the positive side and be reminded of the truest value of Christmas that has gradually faded over the years. Let us fervently nourish our faith and be spiritually fruitful. Let our focal point be the birth of Jesus and His story of salvation.
Fruitfulness does not equate to the abundance of material things or the absence of need for something. We can have the bare minimum and still be fruitful.
I want to end our reflection with a true-to-life story between two friends who both work at a restaurant in Northern Italy. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this popular restaurant was temporarily closed. Three months later, it reopened but only half of the full capacity can go in and eat. After a month, the owner realized that their revenue was not enough to keep the business afloat and had to lay off half of their staff.
Corazon and Rosalinda had a conversation. Corazon said if the owner chooses her, she’s willing to give way and ask him to retain Rosalinda’s employment instead. Rosalinda replied, “Why don’t we suggest to the owner that as our support to the restaurant, we will just split a month’s salary in half? We will work three days each per week and the salary will be equally divided between you and I.” And that’s what they suggested.
The owner saw the sincerity and generosity between the two friends. He agreed and promised that when his business returns to normal, they will all be properly compensated.
How can we foster an abiding and productive relationship with God even when we are confronted by this unprecedented and trying times of COVID-19 pandemic?
The season to celebrate the birth of our Lord is fast approaching. Be fearless. Let us not allow the COVID-19 pandemic to steal the spirit of peace and joy in our hearts. Let us not be afraid, but instead, be faithful to the Lord God. We can all be fruitful even in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic. Listen earnestly to the Lord God. Follow Him unconditionally. We will be saved and our lives will be genuinely prosperous, filled with abundant blessings.