Covid and Me, Part 2: Triumph of the Spirit

No virus could stop Filipinos from celebrating milestones in their lives. Social media gave us a peek of how even in quarantine, people celebrated their birthdays with a tiny cupcake topped with a candle, virtual graduations online complete with toga and improvised medals, or full-dressed proms but in TIktok. We dramatized in our bodies our resistance to boredom, helplessness and despair.

We have learned how to be inventive and creative in this period of history when for the first time everybody thought of taking care of their bodies. The restrictions, quarantines, and lockdowns had something to do chiefly with protecting our bodies. The virus hijacked healthy cells and killed them; threatened the lungs and caused rapid progress of pneumonia. This rendered a person unable to breathe, restless, immobile, unproductive and prone to impending death.

In spirit, in our family we joined our cousin’s journey through the dark tunnel of corona virus. First he had difficulty of breathing followed by rapid outbreak of pneumonia and the doctors declared his situation very critical. Subsequent events compounded his condition: a vicious bacteria in the blood for which he needed dialysis; build-up of fluid in the lungs; a cardiac arrest wherein his heartbeat stopped for 5 minutes but was successfully revived.

A doctor friend told me that loss of heartbeat for 6 minutes could result in brain damage; revival after 10 minutes could result in vegetative state if he ever survived. My cousin’s first two covid tests rendered negative results, until the third test yielded positive. As of this writing my cousin is still in the hospital, a survivor at last, but must still be cleared totally of the virus. The covid ICU has been his home for a month already.

We want our bodies to be healthy, strong and free. Yet it is true that our bodies are earthly; they are fragile, unstable, and susceptible to attack from the tiniest elements of nature, of matter. That is why we need the spirit. Persons are not just matter but a composite of matter and spirit. It is the spirit that fights back, resists, struggles to live, and in the end, overcomes the obstacles life puts before us.

In the life of faith, we believe in God the Holy Spirit who hovered over the chaos and put order and life in place (Gen 1:2). It is this Holy Spirit too, that issues from the heart of the Father and is the gift of Jesus dying on the cross (Lk 23:46) and of the same Jesus Risen on Easter day (Jn 20:22). He is the Spirit that saves us from despair, destruction and sin. The Holy Spirit is the God within us, dwelling in us as in a temple (1 Cor 6:19).

Reading the testimonies of survivors of corona virus, we hear the same story, whether from a grandmother, a doctor or a lawyer. They mention a force, an energy, an impulse that is spiritual and transcendent. They recount the power of prayer, the inspiration of the Word of God, the intercession of their family and friends, the words of a priest or a pastor, the strength of their faith in God, in the saints, in intercession. In a situation of chaos and annihilation, the Spirit of God works quietly, gradually, and subtly to bring about acceptance, surrender, forgiveness, healing and restoration.

What of those who died of the virus? It does not mean that God has not answered their prayers or that he abandoned them. The Holy Spirit does not act always externally but internally, bringing purification, patience, endurance and peace that prepares for eternal life. Health, when it is restored, will one day fail again. But the effect of suffering borne in patience, of sacrifice with surrender, and of tribulations accepted in peace, last for eternity.

We entered the quarantine period during Lent and breezed through our first Holy Week via tv and social media. We will emerge from this confinement towards the Feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. It seems a great symbol of the triumph of life, the persistence of faith, the rejuvenation of health, renewal of faith in God, relationships in the family, the goodness of creation and the selfless heroism of our frontliners and backliners.

After devastation, comes freshness from the Spirit who creates and re-creates our bodies and our world!