Coronavirus

What does a beauty queen have to do with Passion Week?

Rev Dr Daniel Koh Kah Soon // April 8, 2020, 10:16 pm

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Beauty queen Bhasha Mukherjee gave up her crown to join the COVID fight in hospitals. Photo from Bhasha Mukherjee Facebook.

Not many people have heard of Bhasha Mukherjee. I did not know anything about this person, that is, until two days ago (April 7), when I read a report on CNN dated April 6, about her. She was born in Kolkata, before migrating to England when she was nine years old.

She is one of the success stories of a migrant who has made good. She went to school and completed her university studies where she qualified as a medical doctor.

It is clear that Bhasha Mukherjee is someone with a good brain, otherwise she wouldn’t have been accepted into medical school in a university. But she is not just a woman who has a keen mind, she participated in a beauty pageant which won her the title of Miss England last December. We may say that she is a beauty with brains.

Laying aside her crown

The thing that caught my attention to her in the CNN report is not so much about her intellectual prowess and her obvious beauty.

Long ago, someone decided to step out of his Godly abode, to enter space and time.

It was the news that she has decided to put aside her crown as a reigning Miss England, and all the trappings that went with her reign, to return to work in the hospital where her doctor friends have been working very hard to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Had she continued with her duty as the beauty queen, she would have been enjoying a life as a celebrity and a life of comfort. But she decided to leave that behind and exchange that reign for the long hours of often exhausting work trying to save lives and contain the spread of COVID-19.

That decision to put aside her crown to be with her friends slogging long hours, taking short breaks, having irregular meals, triggered a thought in my mind on this Passion Week.

Long ago, someone decided to step out of his Godly abode, to enter space and time. He is the Prince of Peace; the Lord of Lords; the King of Kings. And yet He voluntarily surrendered His rightful claim as the Son of God, and relinquished His royal privilege to dwell with humankind, and to attend to a world which has lost her way. It is a sick world of sinners and shames.

A message of comfort for the times

That is the story so well-captured in the Christological hymn found in Philippians 2:6-8 (NIV):

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature
 of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death

        even death on a cross!

In this unusual time when the world is so troubled by the relentless spread of COVID-19, there is a comforting message which we can recall and retell during this Holy Week.

It is the incomparable story of Jesus lowering Himself, accepting the limitation of a man and exposing Himself to the capriciousness of life, and motivated by His love for the world, He reaches out to humanity, to heal the sick, to rescue the lost, to offer salvation, and to give hope to people in a world which is sometimes overwhelmed by darkness and despair.

Look out, not within

Bhasha Mukherjee disregarded the luxurious life of a beauty queen when she decided to risk her personal well-being and life, to join her colleagues in overcrowded hospitals attending to the sick and offering hope to those afflicted by the nasty virus. Hers was a selfless decision.

More profound than the good deeds of Bhasha Mukherjee, is the history-changing move by God … when he gave His life for us.

Of course, more profound than the good deeds of Bhasha Mukherjee, is the history-changing move by God who, through Jesus Christ, became man, and was crucified when He gave His life for us.

This is why we observe Holy Week.

This is why we contemplate on the Passion of Christ.

This is why, following the teachings of Jesus, and in some ways like Bhasha Mukherjee, we should think less of our own selfish interests and more of how we may pray and provide meaningful support in the fight against COVID-19, particularly in watching out for those whose well-being may be easily overlooked.

Passion Week should move us out of any preoccupation with ourselves to look at the wider picture of what is happening, and to respond in ways that will bring healing and hope to a troubled world.

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About the author

Rev Dr Daniel Koh Kah Soon

Rev Dr Koh Kah Soon, retired lecturer in Ethics and Pastoral Theology at Trinity Theological College, serves on the Board of Governance of Methodist Welfare Services and is a pastor at Barker Road Methodist Church. He is passionate about Christian social outreach and how we may apply our Christian faith to the issues of our time.