Defining ourselves in self isolation

The Pandemic Social Isolation is an opportunity for us to define ourselves in the most authentic way.

Years ago, at my very first meeting with a spiritual advisor, I was asked to introduce myself. I was quick to tell him my current endeavours and my previous projects. My spiritual advisor was patient. After listening to me rambling on, he reminded me that projects and work do not define us, but relationships do. He was talking about my relationships with others and my relationship with God.

Due to the pandemic in recent weeks, many people in the world are either laid off or lost their job. In-person meetings, conferences, arts performances and projects are cancelled, rescheduled, or on hold. Suddenly, people’s occupation and project titles became meaningless. It is obvious that we can no longer define ourselves according to our projects and work. To practice social distancing, many grandparents cannot meet with their grandchildren. Good friends who used to hang out every day cannot meet for a drink to vent after cooping up in the house all day. For those who are inept in using technology to communicate with others, social distancing puts a damper on personal relationships. It seems that what is left to define oneself is simply our own relationship with God.

I wonder if this is the time that we are supposed to focus on our personal relationship with God. Perhaps, we can now spend the time to reflect on who God is for each of us personally, and get to know who we are to God. Surely, it’s Holy Week right now and that’s what we are supposed to do. With the fear and anxiety that accompanies the pandemic, I am sure many of us are also praying, communicating to God more often than usual. However, maybe we have forgotten our own identity and really need to introduce ourselves once more in the most authentic way, and not base our identities on something that will not last, like our work or projects, or relationship with mortals. We need to see ourselves through our own personal relationship with God. If you were asked of who God is for you, can you describe that at this very moment? If not, let just say that self-isolating and social distancing is perfect for a retreat and a reflection.

THANK YOU to priests and religious

Who would have thought this pandemic would affect our lives in so many ways, including the way we worship? There is this enormous sense of loss, when we first learned about church buildings locking up for the well-being of parishioners.  However, I also feel very fortunate these days as I get different notifications on social media about the live-streaming of mass from different parishes.  Thanks to the wonderful initiative of many priests, we have the opportunity to “visit” our friends’ churches and have a taste of their community worship. I am sure live-streaming on the internet was not part of their training in seminaries.

On this 5th Sunday of Lent, how fortunate we are to be able to take in all the beautiful homilies we want on the death and resurrection of Lazarus with the click of a few buttons.   When I was listening to the Gospel reading for the 3rd or the 4th time  this morning (and I lost count), the line that stuck with me most was the one when the disciples asked why Jesus would go back to Judea again when the Jews were trying to kill him earlier.  As I think about the present moment when most of us are simply asked to stay home, I know many priests and religious are out of their churches, consoling others, giving the sacraments to those who need them, especially the ones who are very sick.  Unlike medical workers who may have their full protective gear when they tend to the patients, the priests and the religious would not have that luxury. I can’t help it but to think like the disciples in the Gospel.  Why would they go to where there is such a high risk of getting infected with the virus? There was a report a few days earlier on the number of priests in Italy who died from COVID 19 exceeding sixty. Currently, there are also many religious who have died or are infected with the virus.   It is so touching to see pictures of some priests hosting drive-thru confessions or listening to confessions on front porches. Scenes of chapels filled with religious sisters praying on their knees for the end of the pandemic warmed my heart. I feel very thankful to God sending these hard-working and loyal priests and religious to us. I want to say THANK YOU to all the amazing priests and religious out there, working as faithful servants of God. May God bless them, guide them and protect them. Amen.

Charity for This Lent

At Gethsemane, Jesus accepted the will of God. “Then, an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.” (Lk 22:43) From there, the Passion began.

If Lent is about preparing ourselves to participate in the Passion of Christ, then in addition to accepting the will of God just as Jesus did at Gethsemane, we should also help one another to give each other strength. 

In the last few days, as various cities, provinces and countries began their efforts to slow the spread of the Coronavirus, severe measures were put in place to limit contact between people, drastically changing their lives.  I think most of us have accepted the importance of social distancing. However, there is a sense of fear about the uncertainties gripping all of us. If people were not afraid earlier, now they are starting to feel anxious as they go grocery shopping and see the empty shelves, or have trouble buying necessities, such as toilet paper, salt and cooking oil.  That grocery run can drain you of all energy, especially if you need to line up for the cashier all around the store.  There are a lot of social media posts urging people to help our neighbours in need. Indeed, it is good to know of the many responses to those posts to be angels giving strength to others.  I think that for some of us, we can lift the spirit of ourselves and others in the household, just by doing little things. As St. Thérèse of Lisieux would say that even the smallest flowers would bring delights to Jesus. Besides, these delights may be part of your self-care strategies to get yourself out of the sad moods too!

For the last few days, I have tried:

1. Cleaning up the yard and decorating flower beds with cheap dollar store goods. It’s still too cold for anything to grow out there, but a splash of colour acts as a feast for the eyes.

2. Make interesting meals by changing the presentation of the food.  For instance, I made mini-burgers and I put food in tortilla wraps.

3. Baking. Nothing beats the aroma of fresh baked goods in the house!  It will automatically draw everyone into the kitchen.

These are some ways to spark joy.  I am sure there are many other ways and I will need to be creative enough for the next few weeks. In any case, they act like candies for the soul!

This Lent, rather than only focusing on sacrificing and praying to prepare for the Passion, we ought to also think about the charity of being little delights for others around us. Candies and treats come in all different shapes and forms, but they will give strength for others to participate in the Passion!

How would you strengthen others to participate in the Passion this year?