The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which celebrates Christ’s divine love for humanity, coincides this year with a happy day for Singapore: Thanks to intensive efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation enters Phase 2 of its planned re-opening. 

In Phase 2, most businesses will resume operations, shops re-open, and children return to school full-time. Friends and extended family can meet up and dine in restaurants, albeit on a small scale. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the “circuit breaker” to counter it, have caused great hardship for Singapore. In addition to the tens of thousands diagnosed with the virus, workers grappled with pay cuts and the risk of retrenchment, while families suffered from the closure of public schools and the need to keep their children indoors. 

Local Catholics keenly felt the loss of their access to the Sacraments, to parish-based formation programmes such as RCIA and catechism, and to the sense of community spirit which comes from worshipping together. The past four months of online Masses and prayer meetings have been a poor substitute for the intimacy and immediacy of meeting face to face.

Some may wonder: where has the Sacred Heart of Jesus been in all of this? 

Perhaps we need to recall that Jesus warned His disciples many times that their lives would not be a bed of roses. He even told them, at the Last Supper, that He would not ask God to rescue them from the troubles of this world, but instead to strengthen them from falling prey to evil and despair (Jn 17:15). 

The divine love of the Sacred Heart, therefore, is shown not in an easy “escape” from the woes of human life, but in Jesus’s ceaseless intercession for us before the Father, and in His putting on human flesh in order to share viscerally in our suffering.

As St Paul wrote to the Hebrews, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:15-16)

In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many concrete acts of caring which manifest the divine love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for all humanity. 

  • The love of the Sacred Heart is felt in the tireless work of our medical professionals, healthcare assistants and contact tracers in our hospitals and community recovery facilities. Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Health, wrote on Facebook in April 2020 that when nurses and staff at Mount Alvernia – Singapore’s only Catholic hospital – were allowed to opt out of caring for COVID-19 patients, not a single person asked to transfer
  • The love of the Sacred Heart is felt in the acts of daily service rendered by the families and friends of COVID-19 victims
  • The love of the Sacred Heart is felt in our Catholic community praying with those who are afflicted with the virus, and yearning to see their families again
  • The love of the Sacred Heart is felt when business owners tighten their own belts in order to protect their employees’ livelihoods
  • And the love of the Sacred Heart is felt when the Body of Christ – clergy, Religious and laity – comes together online to preach, teach, pray, and engage in pastoral work to overcome the physical isolation of its members

The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart is also an invitation for us to enter into Jesus’s own heart by emulating His love for the human race. When we love and serve our fellow man as Jesus did, we take small but concrete steps towards healing the brokenness of the world. 

Today, we can show this love by continuing to observe our nation’s guidelines for safe distancing, contact tracing and public hygiene. Only by working together as a community will it be possible for Singapore to reach Phase 3, where we can look forward to the restoration of large-scale public events.

How have you felt the love of Christ during the circuit breaker period?
How have you shown this love to others?

Estella Young

Image: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.

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