Finding blessed assurance amidst the pandemic

Responding to the new norms, we echo the cry of Bartimaeus: “Lord, that I may see (again).” Every adversity is an opportunity.

Sep 04, 2021


By Sr Anne Wong
From being an apostolic religious, I am now an involuntary hermit. In active ministry for decades, my life was an extended honeymoon. The roller-coaster of mission work, the endless energy that came from love (as in the first years of marriage), being with young people, fantastic seminars, mixing with Church hierarchy and those at the grassroots, always with the tangible presence of the Beloved. Without Him by my side, I could not have survived the intoxication of the successful warrior and the battle scars of failure – battles within myself, battles from outside – jealousy, competition, power grabbing, humiliation. The paschal mystery relived.

But, like Joseph’s multi-coloured coat, there were moments of kindness, graciousness, affirmation, recognition, gratitude, rewards. This coat provided warmth for the journey. No thought of expiry date, no hint that all these are not meant to last forever. What happens to rainbows? We can only lock them in memory banks. The years fly by. Clothes get worn out. Food gets eaten, parties end, anniversaries come and go. The curtains come down at the end of the show. The music stops. The clapping fades away. What now?

The pandemic came without trumpet blast. Within a matter of months, the virus swept across nations like a marathon runner. Governments donned battle gear – to control the virus, control citizens, impose lock downs. As among the monkeys in the botanical gardens within walking distance of which I live, boredom releases creativity. When you are forced to look at your inner self and you do not like what you see - the dirt of selfishness, unforgiveness, jealousy, meanness — you’d rather go out and frolic like the monkeys! But where?

The Master had been locked in the tabernacle, locked in churches, cathedrals, oratories, chapels. My turn to be locked in; to be where the Master has been waiting. Don’t keep Him waiting for another forty years as the Israelites did. He is patient, full of compassion and kindness. Daily Mass, liturgy of the hours, novena prayers, litanies, rosary, spiritual reading. Have I not been keeping company with Him? Yes! Words, words, and more words but darling, where is your heart? The words of Fr Martia Fernandez came to me: “Nothing I could do or say could make Him love me more. Nothing I could do or not do, could make Him love me less. His nature is LOVE.” With this awareness came a gentle breeze to brush away silent tears of repentance and regret … “Long have I waited for your coming home to me” (Hosea).

The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert, grumbling against Moses, His chosen one, to liberate them; I too have wandered for a long time in the desert of the world. Generous, hard-working, and dedicated, but these became my idols, displacing the God of my Life. Battling pleasure, possessions, and pride with vows of chastity, poverty and obedience saw a mixture of victories and defeats. Into this surged MCOs, EMCOs, Pfizer, Sinovac, AstraZeneca. Alarm bells rang loud, clear, and incessant. Get vaccinated! Wear a mask! Social distancing! Sanitise hands! Save yourself, save others! The virus sees no colours, does not discriminate! So, vaccinated twice, am I safe? With death threatening to take away life, what can the just soul do? Hang on to the covenant.

Responding to the new norms, we echo the cry of Bartimaeus: “Lord, that I may see (again).” Every adversity is an opportunity. The generosity of people sacrificing self, family, resources to help the victims of the pandemic, the creativity of celebrating liturgy, the resilience of the human spirit. The signs of hope which light up a sky of dark defeat. To the theme of the Malaysian Church 2021 ‘Hope-believe-live-give’, I pledge my daily prayer.

When an aeroplane hit stormy weather, passengers were thrown out of their seats; there was screaming and grabbing of life jackets. A child was quietly playing with crayons, undisturbed, not afraid. When asked later “Were you not aware of danger? Why were you not afraid?” The child replied with a sweet smile: ‘My daddy is the pilot. He is taking me home to mummy.” This is my blessed assurance, amidst the pandemic, the political crisis in Malaysia, the violence ravaging the world. With Him who is the still point of the turning world, I turn my face to the Rising Sun to welcome THE NEW DAY OF THE LORD!

--Sr Anne Wong currently resides with the Infant Jesus community in Penang.

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Celine Dcruzcelineajcruz@gmail.com
I too would to spend my locked away moments with my Beloved Saviour.