Man does not live by a coronavirus cure alone

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… but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

The Archbishop of Singapore has declared that Mass will officially resume on 14 March 2020 with the necessary precautions in place.

Not everybody is happy. Sentiments online (presumably non-Catholics) accuse the Church of being “selfish and irresponsible”. One commentator even went so far as to declare that the government should charge the Church with “murder” if an outbreak of covid-19 in Church should occur.

More sensible voices would point out that what the Church is doing is neither selfish nor irresponsible. Its precautionary measures have received the approval of public health authorities. Moreover, if the concern is over mass gatherings of any kind, then one ought to be consistent and suspend ALL mass gatherings, i.e. in mosques, temples, schools, private secular functions etc., and not target Catholics only. The Church is simply doing what the government have urged Singaporeans to do. Take precautionary measures and “carry on life as usual”.

Which begs the question. What ought to be “life as usual”?

Very often, “life as usual” means the three temptations which Jesus was subjected to in His battle with Satan. “Bread alone”, i.e. everyday enjoyment on the purely material plane. “Throw yourself down from the temple mount”, i.e. spectacles without reference to God; and finally “receiving all the kingdoms of the world if you bow down and worship me”, finding an (unethical) shortcut to power and glory.

If that is “life as usual”, then the reduction of such actions, due to the virus, may not be a bad thing. In our practice of social distancing and the reduction of our social interactions, we are then confronted with our own solitude.

Do we recognise that in our solitude we possess a transcendent dimension, and that our longing for connection suggests a depth to our humanity that cannot be understood with reference only to the material dimension?

Or will this solitude transform into loneliness and alienation?

For the Christian, solitude is a reminder that besides bread, we need “every word that comes from the mouth of God”. A word is different from a sound. The spoken word is of course transmitted by sound waves, but unlike just any sound, it is intelligible.

God’s word is intelligible. It teaches us to place first things first. Bread is good. It points to eternal things. It is no good when it is bread alone.

Someone on social media declared that “Catholics want churches to reopen only because they want to receive the Eucharist”. The writer meant it in a disapproving way.

Yet he was on to something. Yes indeed, Catholics want to receive the bread of life, because living on bread alone will ultimately lead to crashing and burning.

And that would truly be “life as usual”.

___

Image: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore.
Update: Masses in Singapore have again been suspended indefinitely.

Nick Chui

Nick Chui

Nick Chui is happily married and teaches history and Religious Education in a Catholic secondary school in Singapore. He has a Masters in Theological studies from the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, Melbourne.

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