By Dencio Acop
Suddenly the world is still. Only a few weeks ago, it seemed it could never be. But it is now. Not just in a few cities or countries, but the whole world entirely. What just happened? What is happening? Where will all this end? We were busy with our careers. Our livelihood. Our families. Our holidays. Parties. Hobbies. Even idleness. Many wallowed in material success along with all the pleasures that money can buy. Some seemed intoxicated with power along with all the honors that privilege allowed. Power not only among individuals but nations and organizations alike. While a great number continue, to this day, to live in dire poverty. Now we are gripped by fear, anxiety, loneliness, and death. All alike. Rich or poor. Young or old. Powerful or not. Believer or not. All confined to quarters. What, therefore, goes on in our interior hearts and minds today while we self-quarantine? There are quite a few, I think. One: A power beyond ourselves is asserting itself and there is almost nothing we can do about it. Two: Our inequalities are forced away from us toward equality by this power. Three: We realize that we all are at the brink of death. Four: In the face of total annihilation, people are praying again. Five: There is redemption in spite of the doomsday scenario. And finally: The impermanence of the human condition will continue.
Just a few weeks ago, we thought we knew everything there is to know and had solutions for pretty much every problem that comes up. And yet today, a pandemic caused by the coronavirus hits us and no one has a solution. Not a single one in the entire world. Hopefully, there will be but as of today there is none. We had our chance five years ago when Bill Gates warned us but no one listened. So, we are running late catching the bus on this one. Right now, there appears to be just total helplessness. How did we get here? Despite our genius? If removing all obstacles from unleashing our full potential could ultimately attain our highest good, then how did our best minds and resourced talents miss this global threat? If, for decades, we zeroed in on waging wars against foreign aggression of one kind or another, why did we completely overlook a threat more menacing? One whose kind had in fact already happened before? Did we simply miss the target? Or had other motives more self-serving than we want to admit intervened? Could it be that the ways and means we decided to adopt had profits and power as primordial ends neglecting the common good? Anyhow, it does not matter much now. The old ways are rendered irrelevant by the coronavirus. They are gone.
Our inequalities are forced away from us toward equality by the coronavirus. In today’s world, our inequalities define us. The rich and the poor. The powerful and the helpless. The good life and the suffering. The honorable and the nobody. It takes a coronavirus to awaken us from all this illusion. Suddenly, we are all the same. The structure of life we have built for ourselves is now radically altered. And before one thinks it is an alien force that has brought the scourge upon us, be reminded that the virus is very much humanity’s doing. And before believers admonish that God sent the virus to punish sinners, know that God is not the source of the bad but allows it to take place to bring about a greater good. If anything, the global threat merely reminds us that humanity is just one universal body. We are alike as a family and what threatens one member equally threatens all. But didn’t God already teach that? To love one another as siblings in obedience to the Father who delivers and wants what’s best for each of His children. Seems to me that this is what the world missed prior to the virus. Nothing wrong with being rich. If the rich takes care of the poor. Nothing wrong with being powerful. If the powerful takes care of the powerless. Nothing wrong with seeking pleasure. If pleasure is not the end of itself. Nothing wrong with honor. If honor is not its own god taking away from the One True God.
We realize that we all are at the brink of death. To most of us, this is unacceptable. We feel we are not ready to die. By our very nature, we do not want to die. We have gotten so attached to this world. We do not want to leave it. How about our spouses? Our children? Grandchildren? Parents? Siblings? Relatives? Friends? Bucket lists? Things yet undone. We are afraid to die. Most of us do not know what lies beyond death. Even if we did, the fear of it still grips our hearts. How can we even think of death? It is something we have avoided to discuss for most of our lives. Like most, I am very fearful of death. I have only come to terms with it from the death of my own beloved wife two years ago. And from seeing her fade all of two years before that as I cared for her. Death humbles us. It awakens us from our stupor. Reminding us of our own mortality, forcing us to realize what matters most in life. If there is any take-away from this pandemic, it is this. Death radically changes us. It is my fervent hope that death will radically change not just a few but all of humanity. Didn’t God teach us that too? Being God, He also died. Isn’t this the biggest antidote to our fears more than the virus? Dying to ourselves that we can finally live.
In the face of total annihilation, people are praying again. Reduced to hopelessness and nothingness, even at the height of his achievements, man quietly remembers his God. Not that God has been absent and just suddenly appeared again. Fact is that He has been present all this time since man’s birth. For how can the Essence of Being ever be absent? Man only doubts his God because he does not see Him. But, in fact, he has. Through his fellowmen. Through God’s Incarnate Son who taught and lived it. From endless noise, we are brought into stillness. ‘Be still and know that I am God’, the Prophet Isaiah wrote. Pursuing our worldly ambitions, gradually did we move away from our true selves. Boxed-in, we encounter stillness and re-discover God, our true identity. We finally acknowledge this Power that has always been there but eluded us. Who has in fact created us into being. We realize that being ordered back to Him is the way out of our fear, anxiety, sadness, and death. Even on a practical note, God wins hands down. The way I see it, man has two basic options. One: Be with God. Two: Go at it alone. The former brings together the best that man can do for himself along with what God can do for him. The latter only has man himself and his inferior other gods. The game changer really to these two options is the Resurrection where even if man dies, he lives. Through Christ and only through Him
There is redemption in spite of the doomsday scenario. There may be a great feeling of uncertainty at the moment, but someday the virus will be no more. Even the prevailing scenario has already been taught by Christ. Only the good is real. The bad merely feeds on the good. The virus can only be because of humanity. Becoming ordered back to God, his Creator, heals humanity. As with a strengthened immune system, healed humanity can better deal with and ultimately defeat the viral threat. Mankind will survive, what’s left of it. Once again, God brings His children back from the land of the dead to the land of the living. He’s reminded them once more how it is to live and avoid the pit-falls they so often find themselves in. Again, He teaches humankind to be united with brother helping brother. He reminds us to live and let live. He whispers ‘common good’ to our ears, and ‘love thy neighbor’ in our hearts. He greets us with ‘Peace be with you’ in answer to our yearnings away from fear, anxiety, loneliness, and death. For no one ever stays the same after encountering God, the Everlasting Healer of Life.
However, the impermanence of the human condition will continue. The full resolution of the pandemic will not have passed and yet man’s brokenness again manifests itself. Rendered irrelevant is war by the United Nations Chief due to Covid-19 and yet China, the source of the pandemic, continues to be on the warpath, gobbling up more islets in the South China Sea. Do we still not see the connection between moral values, or the lack thereof, and where the fate of humanity is headed? Already, there is this force manifesting that even a Covid-19 will not stop the inclinations away from man’s brokenness. When will earthly giants ever learn that their will could never stand against the Supreme Will? Especially One they refuse to know. Even the great Sun Tzu might have learned. That the Creator of the Universe has the final word. As Saint Teresa of Avila aptly puts it: ‘All things pass; God never changes.’ If His creatures harden their hearts once again, the Creator may just send yet another healing as when He healed them from the coronavirus with His corona de espinas during the season of Lent.
About the Author:
Colonel Dencio Severo Acop (Ret), PhD, CPP, AMBCI graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1983. After serving with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, he then worked in the corporate sector retiring in 2018. He voluntarily serves with the Hearts of Jesus and Mary Parish in Quezon City as a lay liturgical minister.