I AM not particularly religious but I believe in a Lord who is my shepherd, who will not make me want, who makes me lie down in green pastures, leads me beside still waters, restores my soul and leads me in the path of righteousness. (I must confess though that I still go astray every now and then but it is not his fault, always mine.)
I am not supposed to fear no evil even when I walk through the valley of death because my God is there with his rod and his staff to comfort me but I still shudder at the thought of walking through that valley. Lack of faith or lack of understanding of its mysteries?
In a sense, I am a conflicted man especially during these times when death is only one meter, one maskless face, away. I trust in a life hereafter that is all good and beautiful but I am not in a hurry to get there. I know I am not the only one with this fear and I find comfort in that knowledge - that there are so many of us.
And so we pray the Oratio Imperata to protect us against Covid-19 for our God to guide the science and medical people to find the cure - and the vaccine - for the disease and thus stem its transmission. Towards the end of our prayer, we repeat the supplication: please stop the spread of the virus and save us from our fears, which I take to mean, save us from what we fear.
The Bible warns against the blind leading the blind so I listen to the learned to help me understand the lessons that are often hidden in parables. Of course, there can be no better authority, no voice worthier of belief, than those whom the Church have ordained, after years of study, to preach the gospel and spread the message of love, humility, wisdom and all the virtues among the faithful.
There have been instances when their messages contradict my own preconceived notions and almost always I defer to theirs as the correct or at least the wiser one. Each to his field of study. If it were civil law, I would have been less accepting. Render to God the things that are God’s, the Good Book says.
Last Wednesday, the retired Archbishop of Lipa, Ramon Arguelles, preached about faith and love at the Saint Padre Pio parish and national shrine in Sto. Tomas, Batangas and it was beautiful. “If we have faith, we have God with us even if are asleep, or awake. When we do good, if we have God with us always, we will be happy. We will have hope, people will have hope.
“And if we have hope, there is faith and there is love. Of these the most important is love, as San Pablo said and Saint Padre Pio agrees. We all express love and if we know that God loves us, and we love God’s creation, as well as the environment, our neighbors... if we love ourselves without being selfish, if we have these kinds of love, we don’t have to worry.” I told you it was beautiful.
But then came this bummer:
“If we do good, we don’t need a mask. We don’t need face shield, we don’t need distancing. Why? God loves us and we love him and we love each other. We will only do good.”
We trust our faith and at the same time we also trust the science. The two are not mutually exclusive as Arguelles seems to imply. Scientists and medical experts have determined that masks, shields and physical distancing reduce the risk of spreading the disease, which is one of those that we pray for in the Oratio Imperata.
Stick to love and faith and hope, Archbishop. Leave the management of the pandemic to the experts. As you very well know, the passage that I quoted actually had a first part:
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.