By Roger Temme
Yes, you heard me correctly. I know it’s November 29, 2020 not January 1, 2021. Many of you probably know what Sunday, November 29 is. It is the first Sunday of Advent and the first day of the new liturgical year. So I’ll say it one more time.
Happy New Year!
I’ll remind you of another date, nine months ago. March 15, when Covid-19 entered our lives, like an uninvited and unwelcome houseguest. As it stayed with us, It twisted and turned our lives in ways that we could hardly imagine. Nothing has been “normal”. As the disease continues to make it’s tragic presence known in so many sad and cruel ways – serious illness and death. I hesitate to mention the numbers of deaths because, with certainty, the numbers will have risen by the time you read this. Many people have said they can’t wait till 2021 arrives – a new year. The horrific 2020 will be past. We can take a breath and start over again.
But I say, why wait till then? Let’s say “Happy New Year” and start immediately to begin again—to start fresh. “The people who walked in darknessHave seen a great light;Those who lived in the land of deep darknessOn them light has shone” (Isaiah 9:2)
Many would say that ever since March 15, we have lived in a profound darkness that has caused a deep sadness. We have moments of relief, and then we see the numbers on the right side of CNN’s screen and realize that more of our citizens have Covid, gone into the hospital ICU and died. There are so many stories that all of us have experienced personally, in our families and among our friends, as a result of coronavirus. What we have read and watched has caused our eyes to overflow with a cascade of tears, and we can’t find the nozzle to turn off the watery stream. We have walked in the darkness of illness, hunger, unemployment, homelessness, and death. So, I offer this greeting again, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Each Sunday of Advent, we will light a candle on our home Advent wreath and pray, “May the light of these candles we carry be a reminder of the divine radiance within us. As we hold these candles may we walk with hope and confidence in the power of our God to dispel all destructive darkness”
First, let me say this. COVID will not just disappear, and there are many more rough days ahead. We can express love for others by wearing a mask, as we remember the words of the old hymn: “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love as we wear that mask.” I’m pretty sure that’s how I recall it.
Second, as we celebrate this New Year, look for the little lights and the unexpected surprises, and rejoice when they arrive.
Let me end by sharing a wonderful light that arrived and made me smile and shed some happy tears. It is my story of a modern day pen pal. His name is Eric. I met him online through a mutual friend several years ago on Facebook. He lives in the Philippines and was studying in the seminary, aiming towards the priesthood. We had not been in touch for a while, and then one day he sent me an email and it said: “Hope you are well. I’m finally getting ordained! It is a long time coming but it’s God’s timing… I’m grateful to be blessed. Let’s continue to pray for each other. Thank you for the support and friendship all these years. God bless.”
I couldn’t stop smiling when I read these words and the tears started to flow. I was so happy for him, for his Redemptorist community and the worldwide church community. He sent me the link for his ordination in Davao City. I watched it like a proud parent, grateful that I had offered a little positive influence in his life from a distance.
I want to share a word from Father Eric’s homily at his first Mass:
“Despite what we are going through amid the pandemic, amid our personal struggle with loneliness, and with our many heartaches, we believe that things will get better….and ALL SHALL BE WELL.”
Amen! May it be so! Happy New Year!