It is the Lenten season in the year 2020. This year is different. This year, the whole world is experiencing turbulent times. The COVID-19 virus hits everyone and everything with a massive force that it affects not only those that are infected but every aspect of our lives. Each year, Lent offered to us a time of renewal. For Filipino Christians, we take up this season as a journey of personal renewal of our faith. Filipinos validate their relationship with the Lord. But this renewal only becomes concrete when it allows us to live our faith more authentically. The offering we do should help us express our gratitude and allow us to exercise generosity. However, Lent can also be a time to focus beyond ourselves. It can be a time of renewal that lets us hear the cry of the poor and grow in solidarity with them. This is also a spiritual renewal that helps us grow closer to our Lord. Didn’t he tell us that if we wish to love him, we must express that love as love for the least of our brothers and sisters?
We’re in the midst of not only a health crisis but a global economic crisis. Many are forced to self isolate and stay in their homes. Many more don’t have the privilege of being able to do that. Many of our kababayans are “front liners”. They are nurses, healthcare aides, home care workers. Many also work in essential services like the retail food industry. And many more are already undocumented so they cannot work as well as access support from governments. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand who in our community is in need. Who appears to be suffering? Who is tremendously burdened? Not all the poor are in the news, but a simple scan of our community is a place to start.
Communities are quick to react. Organizations like Migrante are raising funds to purchase grocery cards and basic groceries for those that can’t leave their homes. The organization has been delivering goods in the last two weeks. The Alberta Filipino Journal was also quick to support that initiative and donated 20 sacks of rice for our kababayans. AFJ Editor-In-Chief Lito Velasco quickly volunteered for the delivery of goods. Many other initiatives to help by organizations and individuals are happening in this time of crisis. It is our calling as Christians and as people.
Unfortunately, there are few so-called leaders in our community that think of themselves before our people. One accused Migrante of being “an extension of our country’s Political Regime internationally”. This is not the time for politicking. Asked what he thought about the statement, Migrante’s Vice Chairperson Jay Zapata said “Hayaan na natin sila. Kung gusto nilang tumulong, magpasalamat tayo, kung hindi salamat pa rin at nagpakita sila ng tunay na kulay (Let’s leave her alone. If she wanted to help, let’s thank her, if not let’s thank her too for showing her true colors)”.
Reflecting on this polarized attitude during Lent, our good deeds should be motivated by a sincere desire to help others. Public recognition should not be the goal. The Bible tells us to share generously with those in need, and good things will come to us in turn. We are not meant to live hard-hearted or self-centered lives. A greedy, miserly life leaves us devoid of anything but an empty craving for more possessions, more power or more status.
If we spend Lent reflecting upon the situation of those in need, we will begin to pray differently. It helps us pray with a renewed spirit. Our prayer for ourselves will become a prayer that we might be transformed to be better servants for others, especially conscious of those on the margins of Society. Lent spent hearing the cry of our people starts with awareness. Hearing is turned into growing solidarity and leads to deeper compassion and transformative prayer.
As the great Archbishop Desmond Tutu, once called upon us, in a plea for humanity: “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together”.