Rev Rümatho Nyusou
In the wake of the growing menace of COVID-19 pandemic all over the world, the best available prescription flying out from the laboratory of medical research centers until now is “Social Distance.” In the absence of any vaccine to battle this deathly virus, “Social Distance” seems to be the best and only existing antidote. At this critical juncture, as tens of thousands of dedicated medical experts across the world search and research for a solution to this problem, we can only sincerely hope and pray that an eureka moment comes sooner than later, before more lives are lost to this enigmatic virus.
In the ensuing attempt to curb this deadly disease, when we consider the mixed reaction of people on the tough decision of the government in clamping down on all public gatherings, including religious gatherings for worship, by introducing Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), one wonders whether the government of a secular country is trespassing on its citizens by overstepping into the spiritual jurisdiction. Like most religious people, that was my immediate reaction when I first heard the announcement. But on second thought, a more sober thought, I realized that I was still on earth and that I needed to be realistic. No matter how religious one may claim himself or herself to be at this point, it would be wrong to go against the orders of the government and put the life of other people into terrible jeopardy.
As we read more and more the press release of church associations and local churches coming out openly in support of the government by complying with its directives, suspension of corporate worship in the church might not go down very well with some Naga Christians. Nagas, irrespective of our denominational differences, love to pray in mass like no other Christian groups. We love to sing together in a community with all the parts, unlike other Christians who also sing in groups but only in one part. To pray in silence and to maintain quite time is not our fort. But this time it might be an opportunity for us to withdraw from social hullabaloo and retreat ourselves into the presence of God. Didn’t the ancient teacher of the Old Testament time remind us that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven? This might be one of those times when God is offering us the much needed moment of solitude and silence. Jesus often withdraws himself to lonely places for communion with his Father. Many of God’s great servants who responded to God’s voice received their call when they were alone and on their own. Moses, Samuel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Joseph, Mary and a host of other people met God when they were alone.
Assuring the disciples of his presence in their times of isolation and suffering, Jesus told them that “where two or three are gathered in my name, I will be there among them.” This is that time in our history when the presence of God is needed most and when his promise becomes more real. Lodged in our own homes with our own family or stranded in those lonely houses with no one or cast away in an unfriendly place all alone by yourself, this might not be the most convenient time to worship but it definitely is the right time to turn to God. Social distance is taking people away from people, but it is also showing us a way to God. As we distance ourselves and withdraw from fellow human beings, let us take this situation to inch closer to God and forge an intimate bond of relationship with Him.