Homily – 16 February 2020 (6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A)


The current outbreak of the Coronavirus has had a negative impact on this country: economically, psychologically and spiritually. The economy is slowing down. Many businesses are closed and waiting till the situation is normal again. Many people from other countries are afraid to come to Singapore and have cancelled their flights.

Psychologically, people are afraid and anxious. They are afraid of everything and anything: even going to the extent of keeping aloof from their neighbours. People are suspicious. This situation has also impacted their spiritual lives. Some people question God for allowing this to happen. Some people are afraid to come to church. On the other hand, many people are more prayerful. They have more time with their family members and more time to spend in prayer. In this situation, what are we supposed to do as Catholics?

Jesus says in today’s Gospel reading, “If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

When the alert was raised to DORSCON Orange, many people panicked. At this stage, the disease that is plaguing the country is deemed severe and spreads easily from person to person. When the news was made officially, it was no surprise that many in the country reacted with much fear and anxiety, resulting in a frenzied rush to clear grocery store shelves of their essential and even non-essential items. There are many social media pictures and videos of Singaporeans hoarding essential items in their shopping carts and proudly displaying the contents of their storerooms in their homes looking like mini versions of grocery stores.

In this environment of fear and panic, people don’t think about others anymore. They only think of their own safety. They only think about how to survive for a long period of time by hoarding items till there is no more stock for others. This kind of behaviour goes against the will of God. That is why Jesus reminds us again, “If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.” With relation to the present situation, we could say, “If your virtue goes no deeper than that of those who are not Catholic, you will never get into the Kingdom of God.”

Unfortunately, we can find this kind of behaviour among our fellow Catholics even in a normal situation: the tendency to be individualistic, indifferent, negative and greedy. For example: sometimes I  found dirty tissues or other things in the pews or on the floor of the church. Someone must have discarded those items in this place of worship! How can that person treat the house of God as a trash bin? Is he or she aware that he or she comes to the house of God to praise and glorify God? If we are not able to behave well in small things, how can we behave well in the company of our fellow men and even in the presence of God? Moreover, we need to treat others with respect and dignity, especially during this difficult period.

Don’t look at our fellow Catholics in church with suspicion as if they were suffering from the Coronavirus. Yes, we need to be vigilant, but don’t lose our love and respect for others. Even in this situation of crisis, we need to be united. We have to support and help one another. We have to increase our prayer life especially for those suffering from the Coronavirus and for the souls of the dead. We also pray for God’s protection and an end to the spread of this disease. This is what we are supposed to do to get into the kingdom of God.

Fr Johan