Msgr. Fernando G. Gutierrez
According to online dictionaries, a second wave is a phenomenon of infections that can develop during a pandemic. The disease infects one group of people first. Infections may appear to decrease. And then, infections increase in a different part of the population, resulting in a second wave of infections.
As certain global communities ease their restrictions on quarantine, are we going to experience a new wave of the Coronavirus, or worse, will there be a third or fourth wave?
According to Philippine Stars, Malacañang warned last Monday that cases of novel coronavirus in the country might surge after scores of people went to shopping malls last May 17, 2020 in apparent violation of safety protocols as the national government began relaxing confinement measures ((Philstar.com – May 18, 2020) The Philippine government fears that the country’s health system and resources could be overstretched if the coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines worsens after a two-month lockdown. If the second wave of the pandemic happens, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said that the Philippines will be the first country to experience it.
A serious warning
The Spanish flu of 1918 mortality rate of the third wave was just as high as the second wave. The end of the war in November 1918 removed the conditions that allowed the disease to spread so far and so quickly. Global deaths from the third wave, while still in the millions, paled in comparison to the apocalyptic losses during the second wave.
Dr Hans Kluge, Europe W.H.O. director, has warned that countries need to prepare for a “second or third wave” of coronavirus until a vaccine is developed. He further said that Europe remained “very much in the grip” of the pandemic despite a “plateau or reduction in new cases” since most countries went into lockdown. Kluge warned that Covid-19 is not going “away any time soon”
Chronology of Coronavirus-19
The discovery: December 31, 2019.
Officials in Wuhan, China discover dozens of cases of pneumonia arising from an unknown cause
A new coronavirus: January 7, 2020.
They identify the illness as viral disease cause by a new coronavirus.
China reports first death: January 11, 2020.
The first person to die from the new coronavirus was a 61-year-old man who was a regular customer at a market in Wuhan. The illness is thought to have originated in the market. Panic gripped the Wuhan residents. Most of them travelled on land, sea and air and spread the virus to other places.
Coronavirus begins to spread to other countries: January 20, 2020.
First, it spread to Japan, South Korea and Thailand. The following day, the first confirmed case in the United States is reported in Washington State.
Chinese authorities lock down Wuhan: January 23, 2020.
The 11 million people in Wuhan were closed off from the rest of the world as Chinese authorities cancel all trains, buses, planes, subways, and ferries that would allow people to travel. The death toll rises to 17.
World Health Organization declares global health emergency: January 30, 2020.
The World Health Organization.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman declares a “public health emergency of international concern”. Thousands of cases of the new virus emerge throughout China. January 30, 2020.
Trump restricts travel from China: January 31, 2020.
Anyone who was not a citizen or permanent resident would not be allowed into the United States if they had traveled to China in the last 14 days. Death toll rises to 213, with approximately 9800 people infected worldwide.
First reported coronavirus death outside of China: February 2, 2020.
As the total death toll rose to 360, a 44-year-old Filipino was the first reported death outside China.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship is quarantined: February 5, 2020.
Over 3,600 passengers are quarantined aboard a cruise ship outside Yokohama. The Diamond Princess Cruise ship outbreak resulted in seven deaths and 705 infections.
Doctor who raised concerns about China’s handling of the virus died: February 7, 2020.
Chinese Doctor Li Wenliang was reprimanded by Chinese authorities after trying to alert citizens to concerns over infections that could multiply into widespread illness. He died after contracting Covid-19. Dr. Li was hailed as a hero, and his death sparked anger amongst many due to the government’s silencing of whistleblowers.
China’s death toll surpasses worldwide SARS death toll: February 10, 2020.
The SARS epidemic in the early 2000s resulted in 774 deaths. In China alone, the death toll was at 908. 40,171 people within the country got infected.
First death outside of Asia: February 14, 2020.
The first European death due to coronavirus happened at a hospital in Paris. The victim was an 80-year-old Chinese tourist.
Eating wildlife is legislated in China: February 14, 2020.
After identifying the source of the outbreak at a market in Wuhan that sold wildlife for consumption, China drafted legislation to end this practice.
Those 443 passengers who did not have symptoms and tested negative for the virus were allowed off the Diamond Princess: February 19, 2020.
Covid-19 spreads to Iran: February 19, 2020. Hours after announcing 2 cases in Iran, both patients were announced dead. It is not known how the virus arrived in Iran.
Global cases rise to 76,000: February 20, 2020.The World Health Organization said that there are nearly 76,000 cases worldwide.
Italy faces outbreak of Covid-19: February 23, 2020. The number of cases surged to 150, prompting some Italian cities to shut down entirely. Schools and other public places are closed.
Iran’s death toll climbs: February 24, 2020. Outside of China, the country with the most cases and deaths was Iran. Iran reported 61 cases of Covid-19 and 12 deaths.
Covid-19 spreads to Latin America: February 26, 2020
Covid-19 reached Italy as a 61-year-old man from São Paulo contracted the disease while on a business trip to Italy.
Infections affect Europe: February 28, 2020.
Italy remained the European center of the Covid-19 outbreak with 800 people infected. By this point, the disease had also reached 14 other countries, including the UK, Switzerland, France, Belarus, Estonia, and Lithuania. Germany had almost 60 cases at this time, while France reported 57.
Covid-19 spreads to Sub-Saharan Africa: February 28, 2020.
The first case of Covid-19 is confirmed in Nigeria.
First American Covid-19 death: February 28, 2020.
The first Covid-19 patient to die in the United States was a patient near Seattle: February 28, 2020.
Global cases rose to 87,000: February 29, 2020.
The number of global confirmed cases of Covid-19 rises to almost 87,000.
W.H.O. declared Covid-19 a pandemic: March 11, 2020
Global confirmed cases rose to 134,000: March 12, 2020. (See A Timeline of Major Events of Events Surrounding the Covid-19. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/a-timeline-of-major-events-surrounding-the-covid.)
Hong Kong epidemiologist, said, So, in Hong Kong, Hong Kong experts and authorities might have a third wave of cases coming from the mainland after a second wave… (highlight added). The epidemic is still serious in the society. At this stage, it is still not optimistic. What worries me the most is inadequate testing on patients with mild symptoms, which prevents Hong Kong experts and authorities from cutting off the chain of transmission.
Contemporary men’s experience of second wave
These modern cotemporaries experienced a normal life. Unexpectedly, their life was disrupted, their happiness was fractured and their hope was challenged. Yet, throughout this debilitating ordeal, they remained steadfast that they would find healing and transformation.
Clive Staples Lewis
“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program.
We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it.
I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course,
it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others,
and in reality, not imagination.” (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed.)
The Dawning of Lewis’ Darkness
Clive Staples Lewis was born on November 29, 1898 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to Albert J. Lewis and Florence Augusta Hamilton Lewis. His brother, Warren Hamilton, Lewis had been born on June 16, 1895. His mother’s death in 1908 three months before Jack’s tenth birthday hurt him severely. Since then, Jack started entertaining the idea that God is, though not callous, yet a vague abstraction of divinity. By 1911, having been associated with a spiritually unorthodox boarding school matron, Jack denounced Christianity and became an avid atheist.
George MacDonald’ s Phantastes and G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man and other Christian authors, like Johnson, Spenser, and Milton, as well his friends, Owen Barfield, Hugo Dyson and J.R.R. Tolkien convinced him to examine the wisdom behind his atheism. “What it actually did to me was to convert, even to baptize … my imagination.” These men led Lewis to abandon atheism to theism and finally to Christianity.
In 1929 C.S. Lewis admitted, “God was God, and knelt and prayed.” Soon thereafter, he became a member of the Church of England.
Intense Grief and Darkness
In 1952, Joy Davidman Gresham, an American who was Jewish, divorced and a former member of the American Communist Party, had become a Christian through Lewis’ The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters Jack and Joy became close friends and later fell in love. They were married in 1956.
Jack confided to friend, “It’s funny having at 59 the sort of happiness most men have in their twenties … ‘Thou hast kept the good wine till now.’” Four years of a blissful marriage was cut short when Joy died of cancer.
Joy’s death revived in Lewis a gaping painful wound caused by his mother’s death. He poured out his agonizing and angry heart in his A Grief Observed.
Lewis found out after the death of his wife that the God he had imagined was no longer a supportable hypothesis. The absence of his wife and of God made him to realize that Christianity was a fiction. He wrote:
Meanwhile, where is God? When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels— welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence . . . Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?
Jack is not the only one deeply affected by Joy’s death, David Gresham, Joy’s son and Lewis’ stepson, had also a crisis of faith after his mother’s demise. At an early age of eleven his belief in God was already tested when his mother was diagnosed with cancer. One afternoon after he visited her at the hospital, as he was walking aimlessly like “a child alone, grieving and full of fear and self-pity in a hostile world,” he found himself inside the Holy Trinity Church and a miracle happened:
Every leaf, tree and flower seemed to snap into sharp focus and glow with color, life and power, as if lit from within, and I was no longer alone. He was there. He had been all along, but now He made me to know it and know also that He was sharing my grief and understanding my fear… I went into the church and, kneeling at the altar rail, did what I had never done before. I prayed, not out loud; silently I begged that my mother be permitted to live. I prayed with every fiber of my being, mind, soul and body. After a short while, only a few seconds perhaps, I knew that my prayer had been granted…I left the church no longer alone, and comforted, secure in the knowledge that I had been heard, understood, and that my request had been granted. I was no longer afraid, no longer grieving. I knew that my mother would live.
His prayer was answered and Joy’s cancer went on remission. God allowed her to live three more years. After that brief lull, her cancer returned and she died. David knew that two miracles were too much he could bargain for. Joy’s death made David was bitter and deeply hurt. The faith that pulled him through his painful childhood years was irrelevant now. He wanted to be his own man and did not want to submit to any authority, including God’s. It took him years to realize that though he has helped lots of people, but in reality, he was hurting them, because of his arrogance, conceit and pride.
The second wave. All is well that ends well.
David realized that he must allow God to be God and give in to his divine grace to work through him rather than trying to make it work for him.
On the other hand, Lewis acknowledged that the darkness he experienced has a redemptive and sanctifying result. After admitting that any image of God is inadequate to capture who he is and what he does, he says that only torture will bring out the truth. Comparing faith to a house of cards, the sooner it is knocked down, the better. Lewis said “And only suffering could do it.”
After losing Joy, Lewis wrote, Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I’ve been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.
Conclusion: Darkness and God’s absence are avenues to his light and presence. Grief and other trials in life can result into belief.
While embedded in suffering, it is hard to think positively. Flowers seem to have no energy to bloom, birds don’t chirp with lovely songs, trees don’t have the uplifting branches, but rather what is left are falling leaves, the grass is no longer green, but dry. Indeed, when you suffer, everything and everyone look despondent, forlorn and melancholic. Friends don’t offer any devout love and consoling presence.
Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen
“Everything came crashing down — my self-esteem, my energy to live and work, my sense of being loved, my hope for healing, my trust in God… everything. Here I was, a writer about the spiritual life, known as someone who loves God and gives hope to people, flat on the ground and in total darkness. What had happened? I had come face to face with my own nothingness. It was as if all that had given my life meaning was pulled away and I could see nothing in front of me but a bottomless abyss.”
(The Inner Voice of Love: Through Anguish to Freedom.)
God as “nothing”
Is God as “nothingness” really nothing? Arab pundits introduced the numeral 0 and “Arabic number system” as the gift to the western world. Mayan glyphs used the cosmic spiral to represent the numeral zero – they intuitively knew the massiveness of mystery going around in an ocean of zero-ness. Pythagoras, the father of numerology, viewed the sign of the zero as the container for all things. Philosophically, nothing appears to exist. It has no existence. If nothing exists, then it becomes something and it no longer be nothing. Even a dark, empty void of space, absent of all particles, is still something. Ultimately, the definition of nothing may just be an illusive target, moving with every scientific revolution as new scientific findings show us what we thought was nothing is really something.
Take for example a doughnut. It has a hole in the middle. Where did the missing middle piece go? It is somewhere, probably in the kitchen. The same holds true against atheism, an ideology of a social group or individual. God a non-existing
Being according to that ideology. This is equivalent to admitting that He exists. He may not be in the middle or absent as others believe, but he truly is present with us more than we to ourselves.
Henri: the fast-moving prophet
Henri, born in Nijkerk, Holland, on January 24, 1932 was the oldest of four children of Laurent J.M. Nouwen and Maria Nouwen (née Ramselaar). He was ordained in 1957 as a diocesan priest and, later on, studied psychology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen. He was a restless man. So, in 1964 he moved to the United States to study at the Menninger Clinic. He went on to teach at the University of Notre Dame, and the Divinity Schools of Yale and Harvard. For several months during the 1970s, Nouwen lived and worked with the Trappist monks in the Abbey of the Genesee, and in the early 1980s he lived with the poor in Peru. In 1985 he left the world of prestigious academia to join L’Arche community in Trosly, France, the first of over 100 communities founded by Jean Vanier where people with developmental disabilities live with assistants. A year later Nouwen came to make his home at L’Arche Daybreak near Toronto, Canada. He died suddenly on September 21st, 1996, in Holland and is buried in Richmond Hill, Ontario.
Holiness in a vessel of clay
Henri Nouwen was perhaps one of the most prolific spiritual writers of our century. He was a synthesist, sought-after speaker and retreat master. His writings are popular among clergy and laypersons from all walks of life, even today. More than seven millions of his books have been sold world-wide and they have been translated into 30 languages. Fifteen years after his death, all but one of his books remain in print.
He acknowledged that as we journey towards God, life on earth is full of complexities. He writes, “I want to be a saint, but I also want to experience all the sensations that sinners experience.”
Henri confessed that this brought restlessness into his life. It was a fearful experience because he desired to pray while not knowing how to pray, to rest while feeling restless, to be at peace while tempted, to feel safe while still anxious, to be surrounded by light while still in darkness, and to love while still in doubt.
Indeed, he recognized that he is a wounded healer too. He admitted that life is a paradox, full of complexities and opposites. He ministers knowing and experiencing his own wounds, sins and weaknesses.
He admitted that being celibate, he was simply obsessed by the feeling of being in love with someone at L’Arche. He said that it was a deeply satisfying friendship. “Our friendship encouraged me to allow myself to be loved and cared for. It was a totally new experience for me, and it brought immense joy and peace.” Many commentators thought Henry was gay. He was aware of this complexity at an early age, but he dealt with it later in life. Carolyn Whitney Brown remarked that Henri had two books during his lifetime: the 40 some books that he published and the book of his interior and complex life from childhood to later years that was never written.
Yet that “friend” was hopelessly unavailable and that episode made him psychologically paralyzed and aware of his need for professional help. This happened between December of 1987 to June of 1988, the most difficult time in his life and enabled him to write his secret journal, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom. It shares the painful journey that led him to pen The Return of the Prodigal Son and In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. Even after overcoming the urge, he constantly fell back into the desire of wanting more intimacy than simple friendship usually offers. It was a disappointment he chose to live with.
At home, but homeless
Inhis widely read book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, he considered his acute inner sensitivity and susceptibility to feelings of rejection unlike with public rebellion as the prodigal son did. It was, as Philip Yancey wrote, an “unspoken agony that underlay what he wrote about rejection, about the wound of loneliness that never heals, about friendships that never satisfy.”
Truly, Nouwen’ soul and ours are the battlefields of light and darkness, sincerity and hypocrisy, selflessness and selfishness, virtue and vice, grace and sin, divinity and humanity.
There is the dialectical tension between what is right and the mysterious guilt of the human or the split-level of religion of “what must be” and “what is.” This dichotomy landed Karl Barth in hot water. He, a Christian theologian and a married man, morally rationalized his adulterous relationship with Charlotte von Kirschbaum. He rationalized by saying that it must have come from God, not from the devil. He said that he and Charlotte had no choice but to live in these contraries of obedience to God’s command about marital fidelity and what felt good and right to them. His big mistake is to take true religion as both not either/or. Either you’re living in grace or you’re not. Two contraries cannot co-exist inside the same soul.
The second wave
Henri though a man of many paradoxes: a contemplative who was distressed and a writer about intimacy while struggling to claim his own sexual celibate identity, yet he lived a life that is wholly undivided to God. In spite of his complex life, he is convinced that the heart, soul and mind can never be divided between God and neighbor or anything else. “God wants our love without any reservation.”
The mystery of God’s presence, can be touched only by a deep awareness of his absence. It is in the center of our longing for the absent God that we discover his footprints … just as the love of a mother for her son can grow deeper when he is away, just as children can learn to appreciate their parents more when they have left the home, just as lovers can rediscover each other during long periods of absence, so our intimate relationship with God can become deeper and more mature by the purifying experience of his absence.
Henri fully understood the reasons behind light and darkness, God’s presence and absence in his life. The battle between those forces cause intense grief, suffering and guilt to many. Others give up the fight to rise above the darkness and stay with the light.
It is much easier to swim with the current than against it. This is human nature. Mystics and saints were tempted not to fight back. But they did not. That’s why they are “martyrs” for selflessness, they devoted every “drop of their blood” for God. If they can do it, why can’t we?
A research shows that chronic TV watchers and news followers have elevated fears because everything they see starts to feel like it’s happening outside their front door. The coronavirus is here, and some news feeds seem to exaggerate fears. It’s easy to freak out when you see these drastic changes and face uncertainty. Is it the virus that scares you or is it the drastic changes, the uncontrollable, and the uncertainty that scare you? All these threats will eventually underestimate your ability to handle them—all in the name of survival. Your perspective is the most powerful thing you can control in a situation that is beyond your control. These interruptions are scary, but fear, panic, and worry do not help at all. They contribute further to an already stressful situation that can compromise the immune system and paradoxically make us even more vulnerable to the virus. (See The Right Mindset. The Psychology of Uncertainty How to deal with COVID-19 anxiety.)
What now? Where do we go from here? C. S. Lewis and Fr. Henri Nouwen went through challenging uncertainties. Lewis was not sure if God really cares for him. Henri was melancholic after his best friend had forsaken him. During their ordeal, both men felt that even God’s deafness added insult to injury that they are experiencing. In the end, they realized that it is God who remains constant and the only one certain is His love.