What a year, am I right? Think back to the end of 2019 for a moment. What were you thinking and feeling? What were you hoping for? What were your goals for the year? I'm guessing that you weren't expecting THIS. Matter of fact, if you predicted the craziness of this year, go buy yourself a lottery ticket, Nostradamus.
Remember back in May and June, when there were all those jokes floating around about how "each month brings something new"? First there were the wildfires in Australia, then the military tension with Iran, then a Presidential impeachment, then the Coronavirus, then the murder hornets migrating from Asia (remember those?)!
Certainly, the pandemic has dwarfed any of these other bumps in the road in terms of scope and effect, but this year has felt a bit like the perfect storm. Murphy's Law has been in full effect; anything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong! We've seen tons of pieces about how to make the best of a tough situation this year; that's not what this blog post is about.
Today, I want to look forward into 2021. We have learned a lot of tough lessons this year, and I think it's important to examine how those lessons can be carried with us into a (hopefully) less chaotic next 12 months. Life is all about taking negative experiences and applying the lessens therein to the rest of our lives, so that's what we're going to do!
So, what are some of the lessons we've learned this year? First and foremost, our actions affect those around us. How many times have we heard that "your mask doesn't protect you, it protects me, and mine protects you"? This year, more than ever, the term "brother's keeper" has taken on a very real and tactile meaning for us.
We're always called to put others first, turn the other cheek, and openly seek to raise others up by lowering ourselves, but it has never been quite so in-your-face (or on-your-face, if you will). While we won't need to wear masks forever (hopefully we can take them off some time in 2021), the idea that our actions affect others will never go away.
What else have we learned this year? A big lesson is that the Church needs to adapt. One of the positive changes during this pandemic is how many parishes have embraced livestreaming, digital content, and virtual ministry. This is excellent! I can't tell you how long I've prayed for the Church to catch up on these fronts.
Look at our own parish. Fr. Romans and Fr. Federico jumped right on the livestream train, putting out virtual content from masses in the Rectory to parking lot Adoration to Casual Conversations on Saturday mornings. They began streaming this content the first week in April - just 2 weeks after the lockdowns hit. Wow!
We're very lucky to have two tech-savvy priests who quickly bought into the digital content, but many parishes made their first attempts at virtual masses, etc. during the pandemic. That is huge! Think of how many homebound people, even outside of the pandemic, will be able to experience parish life from home going forward. This is a long-overdue step forward!
Another lesson we've learned is that God will provide no matter how dark things seem. Need some examples? How about how quickly (and safely) the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been developed? This is a new record for vaccine development, and it shows what humanity can accomplish when it works hard together.
There have been numerous glimpses of hope during these hard times, and I find it hard to believe that God hasn't had a hand in them. Andrea Bocelli's live Easter concert, Pope Francis' Urbi et Orbi blessing, and even the safe return of sports have brought us hope, joy, and some small feeling of normalcy.
We've learned countless lessons this year - too many to cram into one blog post. Maybe you've picked up some good new habits, ramped up your prayer life, or got back in touch with some distant relatives. Who knows? We sure had plenty of time! My hope for this next year is twofold.
Firstly, I pray that 2021 will be a bit easier on us. I pray that the vaccine will continue to prove safe and effective, that its rollout will be swift, that we will quickly achieve "herd immunity," and that this pandemic will come to an end. I think we can all agree on that one, right?
Secondly, I pray that we will take the difficult lessons we've learned this year and apply them to life post-pandemic. It won't be easy, but all the ingredients are there for each of us to make our world a better place, bit by bit. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.