It would be an understatement to say that 2020 has been a difficult year. Expectations are high for a better year in 2021, with the reality that, in some ways, even a little bit of improvement is better than this annus horribilis.
We arrive at the end of the year after losing more than 300,000 lives in the United States. Millions of people have lost a loved one. Even larger numbers have lost their jobs, their way of life. We are going through an economic crisis that will take years to overcome. And this year has been also marked by racial tensions, protests, violence in our streets, and an election campaign that exacerbated the political and cultural divisions that have grown deeper and bitter during the last decades in our society.
There is much, despite the pain, the anxiety, and the loss that 2020 has demonstrated for so many of us in our world, our nation, our city, and our Church, for which to be grateful.
And, there is light at the end of the tunnel — the opportunity for the COVID-19 vaccine for most of us in 2021 will be a welcomed addition, a light in a very dark place. After nine months of great efforts by scientists around the world, we have now several vaccines that have been proven to be highly effective. Vaccines are re- searched, designed, tried, and produced through very complicated processes and following strict protocols. It has been a remarkable achievement to get to this point in the process in such a short time.
The Vatican’s doctrinal office said that when alternative vaccines are not available, it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines developed or tested using cell lines originating from aborted fetuses.
It is by coincidence that the new vaccines started to be distributed during Christmastime, a season of joy and hope. What we need now more than anything is hope!
What is hope? The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. ‘Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.’ ‘The Holy Spirit . . . he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and be- come heirs in hope of eternal life.’”
So, how can we act as a people of hope?
Hope means that we know that the battle is already won. Jesus is king! Have confidence in this fact. Recall the words of St. Teresa of Avila: “Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.”
Into the darkness comes the light of the world. We have the God of paradox present in our midst. God, all-powerful, becomes all weak as a baby; God, all-wise, becomes all needy, as a baby; God, who is eternal, enters into time as a baby. And he does this, all the while remaining God. “Love’s pure light” comes to us, and we need to take time to unwrap this gift.
A blessed Christmas to you all!