Sacrificium at the time of Coronavirus

by Fr Zweli Ngwenya

From Rome where he shares a house with 193 priests, Fr Zweli Ngwenya reflects on our lives being affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Sacrificium is the Latin word for sacrifice. In Christian spirituality, sacrifice can be defined as that act that makes us to be what we truly are. As Christians we are the body of Christ and we can never be such without doing some sacrifice. Sacrifice is not only an act of love but it is also a sign of love. The greatest sacrifice was on the cross when our Lord showed us how much he loved us; he gave up his life for our sake. Christians all over the world today proclaim this love. We know we are loved because Jesus showed us this love.

Dear friends, I think some of you might know that at this moment I find myself in the City of Rome, Italy, a country that has been hit hard by the coronavirus. The situation is really bad, in a period of three weeks over one thousand people have died and numbers of those infected continue to escalate. We live our lives today in the midst of this epidemic. We know we can be infected anytime, maybe we are already infected. How does it help one to think about all these negative things? I personally think that negativity and fear are the greatest killers of mankind. A positive attitude towards life is needed.

I am really touched every time I watch the television here in Italy these days. Seeing politicians, organisations, and church leaders, all united for a common purpose: to save lives. In fact, the Italian government has really demonstrated to the world that human life should come first than anything else. Everyday we receive some calls via the different media platforms to make some sacrifice. The total lock-down of the whole country is, in fact, a call to sacrifice. Everybody is called upon to deny him/herself some movements, either within the same locality or within the country, for the sake of protecting others. People have been asked to stay at home for the sake of the good of one’s neighbour. I can testify that it is not easy and it is not comfortable but it must be done both for one’s own good and for the good of society.

Pope Francis prays before the miraculous crucifix at the church of San Marcello on the Corso (Vatican Media)

The Church has cancelled all public religious gatherings including the public celebration of the Holy Eucharist. I think that from this decision everybody has to realise the seriousness both of the spread of the virus and of the value of human life. Speaking to some people, they said that the last time the faithful were unable to attend Holy Mass here in Rome was during the second world war. What I want to highlight is that both the government and the Church have acted in a way that shows some sacrifice and responsibility.

As I am here, I cannot stop to think about the people who think about us on a daily basis, the citizens of the Kingdom of eSwatini. It is true that this virus is spreading all over the world, and it has already arrived in the Kingdom of eSwatini. In order to fight and conquer we need to do some sacrifice. It means that every person has to do or to stop doing something for the benefit of the other. During this time, unity is key. It is a time that the government, organisations, and Churches hold hands and move towards the same direction. This time calls for true and responsible leadership both on the part of the government and of the Church. Certain key programs of the government and of the Church should be cancelled and the resources be directed towards the poor and the suffering – SACRIFICIUM. This time calls us all to be truly a society and not just a collection of individuals. This is not something to be only proclaimed but is should be a life to be lived. Our leaders in society and elsewhere should lead us in this regard. Selfishness and greed should be far away from us if we truly want to win this battle.

This worldwide situation presents to us not only fears but also opportunities. In the midst of pain and suffering God does not stop to speak to his people. He calls each and everyone of us to stop looking at him/herself but to look at his/her neighbour and asking always how can one assist a neighbour. God is, therefore, presenting us with the opportunity of really being a society/family, spending time together in our small social units of life. With all public liturgical celebrations having been cancelled in some parts of the world, God is calling us to rediscover the value of the family as a domestic church. During this time Christians are called not to despair but to use this time to sanctify their families by praying together.

False prophets will arise

We need to be aware of opportunists, those who get pleasure in milking a dying cow. False prophets will arise and tell many that they should give their last money or food to the prophet so that they can be healed. Let us be aware not to be misled. False prophets have existed from century to century and they are still there in our societies today. For them a crisis like the coronavirus is an opportunity to scare people, take the little they have, and leave them to die. Let us pray that the Lord Jesus will enlighten us during this time and that when we are faced with these false prophets the Lord will not abandon us to their victory.

At this time, we need to follow the advice of health expects. There is a lot of false information about the coronavirus out there in the social networks, print media, and in the broadcasting services. We need to know that journalists are not health expects. In the Kingdom we have the ministry of health and other health institutions that have the obligation and the expertise to guide us in health issues. Priests, Pastors, Prophets, and whatsoever, are not health expects.

We need to search for the right information from the right people. Let us follow the rules as they are presented to us by the World health organisation and the Ministry of Health. One last thing we need to know is that being infected is not a death sentence. There are many people who have recovered and now they are back with their families. Let us, therefore, not panic for we know all will be well, this situation will pass. May the Lord of mercy grant us courage and a willing spirit to face this epidemic. Rev. Fr. Ncamiso Vilakati and I, continue to pray unceasingly for our beloved country and we thank you all for the prayers you offer for us.