Updated: July 13, 2021 07:56 AM GMT
A man prays outside a closed church in Ho Chi Minh City. (Photo: tgpsaigon.net)
Last Sunday afternoon when I passed my parish church, I snapped a wonderful picture of a young man who stopped his motorbike and prayed outside the church fence. I did not dare talk to him since local people have been socially distancing to contain the stubborn coronavirus outbreak, but his image ignited in me the flame of faith amid the serious Covid-19 outbreak in Saigon.
I am sure that in the past few days many people have received calls from relatives and friends from other places. A close friend who serves as a parish priest in a neighboring diocese called me. After telling him about my mounting concerns about the deadly pandemic, he said: "Hey, dude, we desperately need faith and hope in God when we are up the creek without a paddle. So please follow Abraham's shining example of faith."
Abraham really deserves to be the father of believers. He always trusted in God absolutely, so he was set to leave his homeland and venture into the Promised Land at God's invitation. He willingly offered his only son to God and it was when he tried to kill the child that God came to his aid. Abraham had his faith greatly tested, yet he remained firm. And we, sometimes facing tough challenges and distress, are highly susceptible to the overwhelming temptation to doubt God's love.
During these particularly hard times, we feel that we are nearly dying. Why doesn't God repel the epidemic? Has he already abandoned mankind? Our city reports more and more infections despite imposing strict measures against the contagion. Many places have been isolated or quarantined due to Covid-19 cases.
Abraham's example of faith is the answer to our crisis. God still works and helps each of us. No matter how bad and dire our situations are, we should remember that God, who is gracious and merciful, still loves us and gives us his graciousness. We should be set in our faith amid the fierce pandemic.
St. Paul teaches us that “Abraham believed and hoped against all expectations, thus becoming the father of many nations, as he had been told: See how many will be your descendants. He did not doubt, although his body could no longer give life — he was about a hundred years old — and, in spite of his wife, Sarah, being unable to have children. He did not doubt, nor did he distrust the promise of God, and, by being strong in faith, he gave glory to God: he was convinced that he who had given the promise, had power to fulfill it.”
This is not the time for them to sit cursing the darkness of suffering but to rekindle the flames of faith, love and hope
What can we do to live out our faith as Grandfather Abraham did in this pandemic? On social media, Catholics remind one another to pray fervently in addition to complying with the health ministry’s safety regulations — face masks, distancing, disinfection, avoiding gatherings and medical declaration. Indeed, prayer is the optimal solution of Christians in the current social context. We easily let all things run their course to our great disappointment unless we have a life of prayer.
Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang of Ho Chi Minh City called on Catholics to patiently pray, calmly embrace all trials and tribulations of everyday life, and take initiatives to help out one another to overcome their difficulties.
What Christians can bring to the unstable world is prayer. If they just pray every day and attend online Masses, their faith will be nourished. If they fail to keep calm, they will make their own families disturbed and distressed, so they should not let unnecessary distress invade the lives of individuals and families. It is time they put their absolute trust in God more than ever and maintain constant prayer. This is not the time for them to sit cursing the darkness of suffering but to rekindle the flames of faith, love and hope so that they always have faith in God in all circumstances.
May the Lord, in the midst of suffering and frustration, strengthen our faith so that we are ready to help one another overcome the challenges of the contagion. We cannot go to church to meet you due to distancing measures, but please do not leave us far from you.
May God lift us up from this ordeal of Covid-19.
This article was summarized and translated by a UCA News reporter from a Vietnamese article published on tgpsaigon.net here.
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