On Palm Sunday, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, Philippines said that coronavirus pandemic is a reminder that “control is an illusion”.
In his homily streamed from the St. John the Evangelist Cathedral, he said that both Palm Sunday and the Covid-19 “teach us that we have no control of everything”.
“God has the control. Covid19 has also stripped us naked of our imagined securities and controls,” Villegas said.
“Covid mocks the control freak in us. Palm Sunday says obedience to God saves. The truth has always been there. Covid-19 just reminds,” he said.
Catholics across the country observed Palm Sunday, marking the beginning of the Holy Week leading to Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection.
But since most parts of the country are on strict quarantine due to the Covid-19, Catholics follow the celebration online or via radio and television.
Palm Sunday is a commemoration of Jesus’s humble and triumphant entry to Jerusalem, only to be crucified later by the very people who welcomed him.
Villegas said that Jesus loved his people by emptying himself unlike the “foolish” who cling to control. “And they call God who suffers as stupid,” he said.
“The foolish lead by fears and threats. Not God. The way of God is freedom. He invites. He does not twist arms,” Villegas said.
“Jesus became obedient and refused the temptation to be in control. He emptied himself. He obeyed the plan of the Father. In His letting go, we are saved,” he added.
After the Mass, the archbishop, who was wearing a protective face mask, went around the city aboard a pick-up vehicle to bless palm fronds.
Holding a crucifix, he made a sign of the cross as he passes through the people on the streets.
Below is the full text of Archbishop Villegas’ reflection during this Palm Sunday:
Palm Sunday and the Covid19 pandemic have the same lessons. The threat of Covid has caused the world much anxiety, fear, grief, and sadness. But it has also taught us beautiful lessons that the world is only one boat, not many ships. We have seen deaths worldwide; but we have also seen front liner heroes rise up to the challenge to be men and women for others. The Covid pandemic showed us the ugly and fearsome face of death; but it has made humanity pray more and remember that in God alone are we protected. The quarantine has isolated us; but it has also moved the rest to be more compassionate and caring.
It is not wrong to be sad but we must remember that sadness is just part of the bigger story where the other chapter is joy. It is not wrong to mourn the dead but the grief is just a part of the bigger story of new life—our real life. It is not prohibited to wrestle with faith in God but we must remember that doubt is just part of the bigger story that God believes in us.
Palm Sunday is a paradox; so is Covid19.
This Sunday begins Holy Week. It is made holy by the love that the Lord Jesus poured forth into these days. Scourges and crownings with thorns do not make us holy. Carrying the heavy cross and being nailed to it does not sanctify. Rituals mean nothing unless offered with love. It is when pain is penetrated by love; when we allow love to prevail over our distress; when death is embraced with love for others—that is what truly sanctifies. Pain does not make us holy; love does. Courage is amazing but only by love are sins forgiven. Only love can redeem. Love does not seek to control. Love waits. Love obeys.
How did the Lord love us? By being obedient. He emptied Himself. He willingly let go of controlling His life. The foolish would send fire and brimstone on those stronger than them. And they call God who suffers as stupid. The foolish want control. The foolish cling to control. The foolish lead by fears and threats. Not God. The way of God is freedom. He invites. He does not twist arms.
Palm Sunday is a reminder that control is an illusion. Covid and Palm Sunday both teach us that we have no control of everything. God has the controls. Covid19 has also stripped us naked of our imagined securities and controls. An invisible virus has caused us this panic. The invisible has taken apparent control.
Tell me. Who is truly human? The one who sows fears and threats or the one who is unafraid of sickness or death saving others? Who is the true leader? The one who has many bullets in stock or the front liner who has no face mask yet continues to stay on caring for the sick? Tell me. Who do we need now? A leader who shoots down the unruly hungry or the anonymous citizen who offers food to the unknown hungry?
Jesus became obedient and refused the temptation to be in control. He emptied himself. He obeyed the plan of the Father. In His letting go, we are saved. Covid mocks the control freak in us. Control is an illusion. Palm Sunday says obedience to God saves. The truth has always been there. Covid19 just reminds.