18 March, Wednesday – Doing the right thing

Memorial for St. Cyril of Jerusalem, bishop and doctor

Deuteronomy 4:1,5-9
Matthew 5:17-19

But take care what you do and be on your guard

Having just made it out of Italy (I did not venture north while I was there for 2 weeks), I can appreciate how Singapore has responded to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, especially since I work in one of the universities. I witnessed first-hand the impact back home when, the evening prior to my departure, we were all summoned back to the office because we had a confirmed case of an infected student (he has fully recovered and been discharged).

Then, I left for my holiday in Italy, which I had planned since October last year. Nothing was going to stop me from enjoying the two weeks I had already planned out, in spite of the possible outbreak there. The day I arrived in Rome, the number spiked dramatically to 100. And I was due to travel to Milan the next day. Thankfully, I decided to heed the advice of a priest friend and cancelled the 3-day Milan leg, staying in Rome. By the time I left Italy 2 weeks later, the northern region had already been in lockdown and it was a matter of a few days before the entire nation was put on lockdown.

While many around the world question Singapore’s freedoms, we have also been lauded for the handling of the crisis, managing to contain the spread and enabling most of us to go about our daily lives, albeit with some restrictions — in my case, twice daily reporting of temperature and working from home with split teams. But as I discussed with friends the differences between how each country has responded and managed its own situations, one thing that struck me was that it is only in nations where the citizens are more ‘obedient’ that measures have proven successful. I cannot imagine how any of the Western countries could issue mandatory stay home notices and quarantine orders.

Now take the ‘laws’ that God handed down to Moses and the ‘laws’ which Jesus speaks about in today’s Gospel. I believe many of us have, over the years, put our own interpretations on some of these laws and either ignored some or even adhered to those which suited our ways of thinking. Why? Because while we are on this earth, there are no foreseeable, tangible ‘penalties’ for flouting these laws. On the other hand, try flouting a stay home notice or quarantine order and see what happens to you — 2 students were expelled from their respective universities.

The difference with God is that there is no hiding from Him. We cannot hope that He does not see us missing Sunday Mass (here in Singapore, it has been broadcast online since the suspension of masses last month). We cannot hope that He does not see us judging others, hoarding, gossiping, disobeying our parents…the list goes on. Just because we don’t see Him, we cannot let our guard down. In fact, it is now, in this time of crisis, that we need to be the face of Christ to others. It is now when we need to be compassionate, understanding, patient and forgiving.

Brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters of God, we are beholden to a set of laws that have been handed down through the generations. Whether they are archaic or not is not the question. The question is whether we are living our lives according to the laws prescribed. Or whether we have let the countless viruses of modern living infect our spirituality to the point where we have become immune whenever we break the laws. And cause hurt not only to our loved ones, but to Jesus.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Father, we pray for your merciful blessings upon this world, in spite of our weaknesses and for having forsaken you. We ask for your healing graces to pour forth and shower us with your love, mercy and forgiveness.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for giving us a second chance at life in this time of crisis, Abba Father. Heal our families as we come together and bond during this trying time.

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