THE MESSAGE OF PALM SUNDAY: COVID-19 AND THE GIFT OF RESILIENCE
Rev. Fr. John-Mary Ntol Atep
Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again – Nelson Mandela
On this day we celebrate Palm Sunday of the passion of the Lord, I prayerfully wish you a fruitful conclusion of our Lenten journey and spiritual exercises which are meant to usher us into the highest celebration of our faith – the Passion, Death and Resurrection – the Paschal Mystery of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have heard and read several theories that proponents and well-wishers have opined as its causes and effects on our humanity and our world. All the same, first things first: May our beloved souls that have died as a result of the same virus, rest in perfect peace. Amen. Second, through the saving power and grace of Jesus Christ and through the intercession of Our Mother Mary, Health of the Sick, may those who are affected by the virus and are struggling to experience speedy recovery, regain their well-being. Amen. And may those of us who are not yet infected by the virus be under the guidance and maternal care of Our Lady Undoer of Knots – Amen. St. Corona: Pray for us!
The times are hard and challenging! This is not the time to chastise ourselves especially with end-time revelations and messages because we are already traumatized as a result of fear and panic from Corona-virus pandemic. We need more hope, because amidst all interventions, hope will not disappoint us (Rom. 5:5). However, we need to tell ourselves the truth because truth heals. It is high time to remind ourselves that in the history of the world, there are many signs to justify the connection between sin, lawlessness and plagues. The ten plagues of Egypt are permanent practical evidence for us (Exodus Chapters 7-11). God permitted a series of ten plagues to pressure the Egyptian ruler – Pharaoh in order to allow the children of Israel to move from Egypt to the Promise Land and worship Him. The good news is that there is something more about our current pandemic.
The celebration of today’s Palm Sunday of the passion of the Lord is a call and the grace to see beyond the swinging of palm branches and other instruments. We are all in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic. What is Palm Sunday celebration saying to us in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis? Etymologically, from Latinized form of Greek, krisis/crisis means “turning point in a disease” (used as such by Hippocrates and Galen). Literally, it means “judgment, result of a trial, selection.” So, crisis as a term is from the ancient Greek – krisis, or judgement, “to separate, decide, judge.” We gather from the root meaning of the word crisis that crisis supposed to be moments of choices, decision making or bouncing to the opposite of a crisis moment. That crisis is a moment of opportunity! It is a test of character, a test of the attitude of discipline (Heb. 12:6). Meaning, a crisis is not just a bad situation but a point in life to test our transformative power or potentials. Something that must be renewed in our psycho-spiritual life is the fact that says at baptism into Christ, we had experience death. So, we live with our various deaths and when such belief and conviction is properly acknowledged and appreciated then we can say we are resilient people. Resilience means the strength of will to carry on with life irrespective of several adversities and threats. A resilient soul has the philosophy that says there is a way when and where there seems not to be a way. It means that crises are meant to fuel our resilience especially when we see them as opportunities. Hence, the saying crisis is dangerous opportunity. But, when the word is used or applied in the negative sense as it is usually done, then it is devalued.
The foregoing understanding is what we need to carry on in life. Jesus Christ whom we celebrate on Palm Sunday is part of our crises world. Scripture confirms that “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9). What does this experience of Jesus suggest to us? It says that all events, encounters, circumstances are helpful because they become useful information for us. We need to cultivate or adopt factors that support the attitude of resilience. This is where we are reminded of our first potent force in heaven and on earth – a sound relationship with God. Jesus had His way in our crises world through His relationship with His Father whom He calls Our Father – “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission” (Heb. 5:7). It goes to say, “There’s a spiritual solution to every problem” asserts Wayne Dyer. This corroborates with the Angelic saying, “For nothing will be impossible for God” (Luke 1:37).
Furthermore, we need to always have a sense of purpose and meaning in life. Our life is more than any crisis. We have the innate abilities to either surrender to the crises affecting us or to say I have a reason (s) to live and accept the crisis and be in full control of it. Frederick Nietzsche states that, “That which does not kill you make you stronger.” Again, when in crisis we ought to assess ourselves – am I an egg or a ball? This is where Robert Schuller’s book title comes alive Tough times never last, but tough people do. Say it louder: “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”― Maya Angelou.