CATHOLIC priest Msgr Christian Pereira has drawn a parallel between the new behaviours associated with the pandemic and the love and sacrifice that symbolises the Lenten period that Christians around the world are observing.
He linked the washing and sanitising of hands to repentance, wearing masks to a daily crucifixion and social distancing as the ultimate sacrificial act of love or fasting.
In a message for Lent, he said embracing these disciplines would be the most life-giving commitment one can offer to family, church community and wider society.
“This year our Lenten pilgrimage begins during the covid19 pandemic. The traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and alms-giving will certainly present with a new challenge this year.
“Can we find some resonance in what the pandemic is asking of us and what the Lenten pilgrimage is asking of us?
“Washing and sanitising are external activities that are necessary for our personal well-being and the well-being of others As Christians we are called to strive for a certain personal cleanliness within ourselves and in our external condition.
“There is a saying that cleanliness is next to godliness. Even though our God comfortably finds himself in any situation, as his people we are called to respond with a commitment to tidy our personal situation (repentance) and cultivate a greater sense of personal virtue.
“The pursuit of our truest identity is both a commitment to personal cleansing (repentance) and the cultivation of genuine virtue. It is possible that we will have to reject many things that are not ‘clean’ or ‘virtuous.'”
Though love involves embracing, Pereira said at this time, “as painful as it is, we stay apart.”
He said this demonstrates “there is a deeper experience of love which calls us to be apart even as we love and care for others.
While there is an element of clear concern for the well-being of others which requires being socially distanced, “Love is about our capacity to pray for, to wish well, to care for others even without the physical embrace.
“Our hearts can love and embrace even those we cannot touch and hold. We are being called to fast from many good things but not to despise these things. To stay away, but not to ignore or scorn. To distance but not to decry. Let us continue our commitment to this level of fasting as we journey to a better and a whole society.”
The mandatory wearing of face masks, he viewed “as a cross that we must carry.
“If there is a penance, it must be this simple piece of cloth. It does not weigh much, but for the strongest and the weakest among us, it is a daily crucifixion all persons must endure.
“Regardless of how pretty you make your mask, it is a burden. As we wear it with appropriate resignation, we help to make our society better. Like Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry the heavy cross we can help one another and encourage and support each other in this daily crucifixion.
“Let our response to the pandemic be a true humanising process. Complaining about what we must do brings greater sadness to ourselves and to those around us. Protesting the use of the mask or any of the other disciplines is an act of disservice to ourselves and to the society in which we live.”