It’s been quite a year, this 2020! While I am sure that there were many blessings and good moments in the course of the year, its likely most of us will remember for just the opposite! Above all it has been a year of tests and trials, the like of which none of us imagined at the start of the year. Most likely the biggest – and still ongoing at this point – has been the pandemic caused by the Covid 19 virus spreading around the world bringing great suffering and even loss of life to so many, and in connection with the health crisis, the efforts to contain it have caused yet further upheavals ranging from the inconveniences and annoyances of various levels of restrictions on public activity – including the suspension of attendance at religious services, something unheard of for nearly a hundred years – to the shuttering of businesses, loss of jobs, economic struggles, disruption of schools and education at all levels and the introduction of such levels of uncertainty in lives that many now live in continuous anxiety and chaos. It has created a mindset of fear and panic that appears all over, and renews itself as further waves of contagion emerge. However, that’s not all! The leaders of the world and the governments instituted to protect and serve precisely in these moments of national and international crisis have at best struggled and at worst have absolutely failed to be of much help, offering constantly changing reports and responses, instigating as much confusion as resolving it, entangling partisan political advantages with genuine attempts to respond to the crisis. This has all the more contributed to a climate of worry, of helplessness of distrust and division. And that’s still not all! Our nation has also experienced one of the mostly bitterly fought election campaigns in its history, with contested results from the highest to the lowest offices, clarity only gradually emerging, a population sharply divided on its allegiances and thus a nation suspicious and unsure of whom to rely on to guide its future. Instead of the usual upbeat and cheerful Holiday Season to lift us out of all this, it’s likely to be a very subdued, low key, restrained – if not restricted – season with people obliged to stay home, avoid the unions with family and friends that often rejuvenate us, and even have to defer the decorating and gift giving that many depend on both financially and emotionally to turn things around at the end of the year.
Now this all sounds pretty depressing!
And if that were all we had to consider – it would be! But, it’s not!
This year has been a trial of grace from beginning to end. I will admit, it takes some effort and deep faith to see it, but that is the truth. If you are a believer, then nothing is surer than the fact of God’s dominion in all things. That while on this lower, earthly level, disasters and failures of every kind occur, due to a vast assortment of causes, some natural, and some man made, there is nothing that does not ultimately serve God’s good plans – we have but to see it and respond accordingly. If this year has brought us trials and struggles, one after another, know that it is also a test of faith, first and foremost, and then a test of virtue in responding with resilience when demanded, perseverance continuously, charity and generosity constantly, and confidence that all will serve to build us into God’s children, ready for His Kingdom.
We Christian and Catholic people can assert this because our God came to earth and lived it Himself, demonstrated in His own embracing of suffering and self-sacrifice and even death, redeemed it and made all of it pathways to glory. He invested every effort with His grace and that grace is shared with us. We have but to reach for it in a spirit of faith and prayer. This is why I think it is hard to be downcast or discouraged, if we are living this with the Lord. Which is not to say that it isn’t hard, at times painful, leaving us shaken and unsure of what comes next. However, this is always secured by an unshakeable faith that all can serve God’s purposes. That every suffering can unite me to Him. That even my mortality is but a step towards the life that has no end – not such a terrible thing!
Thus, we can begin a new calendar year, 2021, still carrying many of the burdens of this year, but with great hope. The God who did not abandon us last year, is the Lord of this year as well, and we can walk with Him more clearly now that we know what is asked of us. The God who allows His children to be tested also knows how to show them His love, provide His grace and uplift their hearts – even when there isn’t much to boast about here on the earth. With hope in the Lord, we can only grow and growing, overcome, and overcoming, triumph! That means there is so much to look forward to in this coming year.
As I write this, we receive word that our Holy Father has declared with coming year to be a Year of St. Joseph, asking the entire Church to entrust itself to this Saint who walked humbly and often in difficult and trying circumstances over which he had little to know control (sound at all familiar?). This Saint knew in whom he trusted – the Lord! And was provided with the Spouse who is beyond compare – Mary, and the Child, who is the Savior. Following the example of this great Saint, relying on his fatherly love and care for us as he lived it with Jesus and Mary, we shall do well in this 2021.
May you all know His love, grace and abundant blessing in this New Year!
Fr. Gregory Finn, OSJ