February 1, 2023

Last year, it was our common prayer for the Covid-19 to end. But we welcomed 2021 with a drastic increase of Covid-19 cases in the Cordillera, particularly in Mountain Province.
I am saddened by the many unpleasant events of January 2021. Brent Kellay, my high school friend, batchmate, and fellow instrumentalist, died a week after my visit. Auntie Carmen Filog died and was buried without having visited her or at least offered a prayer service for her.
Judelyn Ached at 50, the wife of my good friend, Bob, was not spared from the virus. She was brought home from the hospital and was buried immediately. It was painful.
Last Sunday, I received a phone call from Elma Lawagey to give the last sacrament of Marcela Tomad. I was in a dilemma since I was about to start my Sunday mass. I reached Barangay Antadao for the conditional sacrament of holy anointing. After that tiring Sunday, another message from Bontoc came informing me about the death of aunt Emilia Falisong. I was again deprived of time to pray over her due to the lockdown.
Some families are troubled because some family members have been infected with the virus. Anxiety is overwhelming the families. Series of municipal and barangay lockdowns followed. It practically disoriented their way of life. Cases of anxiety and depression escalated when the virus claimed lives of friends. Personal messages on Facebook and text messages loaded my inbox for prayer intentions of protection, healing, and eternal repose.
Mountain Province was once praised because of the discipline of its residents. But recently, cases reached critical status.
We ponder on the Book of Jonah 3:1-5,10, which narrated his life and his mission.
Jonah was a prophet of Israel for the Ninevites.
Nineveh was an ancient and the largest city in the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Most probably, it became a sinful city.
The famous story was Jonah’s mission to Nineveh to warn the people of the nearing divine wrath. But instead of going to Nineveh, he boarded a ship to Tarshish.
While Jonah was in the ship going to Tarshish, God hurled a great wind. He then asked the ship’s crew to cast him overboard where he was swallowed by a big fish. While inside the belly of the big fish, the word of the Lord came to Jonah, saying: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”
The mission of Jonah was to warn the people, “Forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed.”
Even if Nineveh was a large city, Jonah delivered the Lord’s message because of his zeal.
The Ninevites heard the voice of Jonah. They believed God. They proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.
We see the cooperation and discipline of Jonah. He cooperated with God for the conversion of a sinful city. He did not escape anymore but looked into the higher purpose of his mission, not for himself but for the good of the Ninevites.
The beautiful part of the story was how God was pleased by the conversion and repentance of the people. God was pleased by the people’s cooperation and discipline. He spared them from divine wrath.
Jonah’s story can be a message to all of us today. Covid-19 came and it is making a great havoc for almost a year now. It confronted human power and made us realize that we cannot defeat the virus by human capacity alone. The virus shook our lives and led us to look and cling to God.
Like in Nineveh, we must see the higher purpose of the challenge now. It must shake our morality and spirituality to conversion. Illegal drugs, gambling, alcoholism, and other vices; violence on women and children, abortion, divorce, human trafficking, graft and corruption, gender abuse, atheism, abuse of Mother Earth, and many other crimes are unstoppable. Covid-19 seemingly is the divine tool to challenge us to change our evil ways.
We need to pray and fast more, discipline and cooperate to overcome the pandemic and to bring our lives to the needed conversion.
Reach me at [email protected] or at 0908-727-6735.