HOLY Week is a time to pause and focus on the Passion (suffering) and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the events that led up to it.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, this is the 2nd year that we will not be able to observe it as we used to. But this should not prevent us from reflecting on its real meaning and significance.
One of the Holy Week traditions that we do as a family is the Way of the Cross, which is the step-by-step retelling of the crucifixion narrative.
Of the fourteen stations, I have always been drawn even as a child to the 5th Station... “Simon helps Jesus Carry the Cross.”
Perhaps, it’s because I have always been moved and touched by the story of how an ordinary man, who was then merely passing by, got to help Jesus carry the cross. How blessed was Simon, that from the thousands of spectators who lined up the streets, he was handpicked to share the Passion of Christ.
As I do my personal Lenten reflections, I cannot help but reflect again on the 5th Station and how it relates to the journey we went through one year into this health crisis.
There’s no doubt that we are in a very difficult situation. Many are suffering, making tons of sacrifices, scared, confused, and feeling hopeless. Each one carrying his own cross.
But amidst these sufferings and miseries, we find our modern-day Simons of Cyrene.
More than half a million Filipinos have been financially hit, either because they lost their jobs or had to close their businesses. Some had to settle for reduced work hours and pay cuts. While others didn’t mind having to shift to low-level positions or do menial jobs. All these resulted to a major dent in their coffers and brought sufferings as many were left homeless and hungry.
But many also immediately came forward and helped carry the crosses of our needy fellowmen. With no prompting, strangers went out to help strangers. Ordinary citizens initiated fundraising campaigns, pooled resources, and mobilized people to alleviate the sufferings around us. In their big or small ways, there were so many Simons who just wanted to contribute and help somebody.
As the virus is highly contagious, those who got infected were taken from their loved ones and put in isolation. They did not only suffer from physical pains but they have to battle loneliness and depression.
But thanks to our very brave and dedicated medical front liners, COVID patients may be isolated but not alone. Our modern-day Simons of Cyrene is with them, attending to their needs, caring, and comforting them even if it means risking their lives. Many of the early deaths came from our front-liners who literally sacrificed their own lives to save others.
While some may be doing this because they have to earn a living, for most, it’s borne out of their commitment and desire to help lessen the suffering and be a part of the solution to this crisis.
Many are confused, scared, and stressed about what’s really happening. It’s not helping that they are getting different and conflicting information from different sources. These lead to either indecisiveness or making ill-informed and wrong decisions.
We can be the Simons by making sure that we will only get info from reliable sources and disseminate facts. Let’s not contribute to spreading fake news and unverified info which only adds to the confusion and anxiety of others. If we do not know the full story, let’s not speculate or worse invent our version.
The drastic changes brought by the pandemic challenged the status quo and forced many to go out of their comfort zones. While others are able to adjust, adapt and adopt, some are still struggling under the new ways of doing things. These people still lack the confidence that they can thrive under the new normal.
To them, we will be the Simons who can be the source of inspiration, motivation, and empowerment. Through their own actions and deeds, a number of our fellow Filipinos have shown that despite and in spite of the crisis, we can actually still do a lot to make a difference for ourselves and for others. Yes, many have lost their source of income but many have also found better opportunities and are even thriving because they made the decision to make it happen! Let’s be the source of optimism, hope, and action.
No one is spared from the hardships caused by the pandemic. Both small and big-time businesses were affected. Both management and rank and file employees losing their jobs. Both rich and poor are inflicted and dying from viruses. Even those with millions cannot even be saved from the wrath of the pandemic.
Everyone is in need of a Simon of Cyrene nowadays. We all need someone praying for us, listening to us, comforting us, inspiring us, and just being there for us.
But more importantly, let’s be mindful that we can all be a Simon of Cyrene. That simple smile and hello, those simple acts of kindness, those inspiring messages posted on your social media, asking that simple question “how are you?” and giving the reassuring words of “I will pray for you”... all these simple and ordinary gestures from regular people like us can go a long, long way.
A blessed Holy Week to all!