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Lockdown: A blessing leading to better things for families

IF the COVID-19 crisis is a blessing, it is indeed well disguised. And yet a blessing it is!

Archbishop John Wong, head of the Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese claimed that many archdiocesan faithful have counted the pandemic as “a blessing in disguise, especially in restoring the right relationship with God, with each other in the family, and with Mother Nature”.

He foresaw that, while the fear of COVID-19 has given us the unexpected blessing to stay at home, it has, advertently or inadvertently, provided the faithful the opportunity to “purify our family culture”.

Archbishop Wong seized the opportune moment to pen a pastoral message to guide the faithful to harvest the “blessings” that God has in store for them during the Archdiocesan Kaamatan Festival “on lockdown”. He revealed that the theme “Living Out the Purity of Culture in the Family to Continue the Mission of Christ” was aptly chosen to reflect the family on mission.

The biennial archdiocesan celebration has been cancelled, which was due to take place on May 26 at the parish of Holy Nativity Terawi.

In the keenly felt absence of the physical presence of the people, the prelate described the sorely missed “fellowship and gathering through songs and dances, especially through the shared Eucharist” as a loss because it is “part and parcel of our identity as the local Church for the very essence of Church is communion”.

Explaining the theme, the Archbishop underscored it implies “that to continue the Mission of Christ, the family is called to live out a culture that is not adulterated”.

First, what is the Mission of Christ? It is to save the world from the virus called “sin”. Sin has distorted the beauty of Creation “where everything is good”. We see the consequences of sin in today’s world.

Next, we define culture as the “ideas, customs, attitudes and social behavior of a society, or a particular people”. From the ‘fall’ of our first parents, human culture has been adulterated by sin because humankind can no longer relate rightly. Cain could not accept the goodness of his own brother, Abel. All through the Old Testament, jealousy, selfishness and vengeance have ruined interpersonal relationships.

For love of mankind, Christ came with the Mission to “restore the wounded person and his culture to the beginning of time, where everything was once “so good”.

The key, then, to continue the Mission of Christ is LOVE, for only Love can conquer sin and restore the purity of culture, reasoned the prelate.

In order to recognize and admit that LOVE is God Whom we worship (1 Jn 4:7-21), we need to move from “eros” to “agape” love, maintained the Archbishop. Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Dues caritas est” (God is Love) differentiates agape as sacrificial love and eros as self-centred love, and that He Who is Love first loves us even while we are in sin. He deduced that if He loves us unconditionally, we should in turn love others for what and who they are, unconditionally.

The Kaamatan “lockdown” is precisely the God-given time and grace to live this “purity of culture”, enthused the prelate. “Let’s examine ourselves. Do we give time to each other at home? Do we speak and listen with love? What kind of love do we possess? Do we allow media technology to replace our personal touch? Are our ideas, attitudes, customs and social behavior at home and in society motivated by agape or eros love?

Kaamatan would have a deeper impact on our culture if we will turn this self-examination into our “resolution”, he urged.

Although uncertain of how long the pandemic effect would impact life socially and economically, Archbishop Wong cherished the hope that as long as our family bond is grounded on agape love, come what may, we would have the necessary strength and support to deal with the future. – AC

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