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A Holy Week like no other

The story is told about a daring photographer who succeeded in taking a picture of a ghost in a haunted house, but it came out blurred. When asked why, his response was: “The spirit was willing, but the flash was weak.”

Today is Palm Sunday, the start of the Holy Week. The picture looks blurred because of the COVID-19 pandemic that is causing so much fear. When darkness comes, we need our faith to help us stay focused, and to give us courage, hope, and peace.

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The Holy Week is all about a God who loved the world so much that He gave us His only begotten Son (Jn. 3,16), who suffered, died, and rose again so that we will be saved and have eternal life. This Holy Week is different—no church services, no big gatherings for worship and devotion, but let us all go back to our hearts, and there find Him, person to person, heart to heart.

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Today, Palm Sunday, we have no palm branches in our hands, but we look at the palm of our hands, and we thank God for all the blessings He has handed over to us all these years. We also ask the Lord to forgive us for all the sins we have committed with our hands. Let us also resolve to share the talents, treasure, power, and whatever time we still have in our hands so that others will have better lives.

This Holy Week is not just about looking in, but also about reaching out. I know of a friend who decided to write, text, call people just to say hello and to tell them “thank you,” “I’m sorry,” “you matter to me.” Or a family who cleared their house of much excess and clutter, and shared what can be useful to others. Or another friend who has given donations anonymously to institutions. Whatever. Just do it, go the “extra mile,” so that others can smile.

Let us follow Pope Francis’ advice on true fasting for Lent: “Fast from hurting words and say kind words; fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude; fast from anger and be filled with patience; fast from pessimism and be filled with hope; fast from worries and trust in God; fast from complaints and contemplate on simplicity; fast from pressures and be prayerful; fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy; fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others; fast from grudges and be reconciled; fast from words and be silent so that you can listen.”

Someone shared with me this beautiful reflection on Malachi 3,3 (“He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver”): “Just as the silversmith must sit and carefully watch the silver being purified in the furnace, so too will the Lord lovingly watch over us as we go through the trials that purify us; and just as the silversmith knows that the purifying process is over when he already can see his image on the silver, so too will our purification be over when God can see His image in us, and we can see Him in each other.”

God is fixing the world, and fixing you and me. Let us ask ourselves: Have I come closer to God? Have I become a better person? Have we become a better family? Have we become a better Philippines? Have we become a better world, because of, in spite of COVID-19?

Please remember that the Holy Week does not end with the passion and death of Jesus, but with the resurrection. Yes, we too will rise victorious with our Risen Lord from the darkness of COVID-19.

One with you in our Holy Thursday Lenten TV special “Who is Christ for you?” at 4 p.m. via ABS-CBN.

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A moment with the Lord: Lord, let Your light purify and lead us. Amen.

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