We have probably been looking forward both to a new year and to the end of the previous one. The year 2020 had started – like any other year – with great hope; with the hope of something new and better but we were suddenly faced with an unprecedented situation: the whole world being affected by a virus able to completely affect our ordinary life.
Some words and expressions became part of our vocabulary: “stay home”, “social distance”, “quarantine”, “masks”, “lockdown”, “self-isolating”, “pandemic”, “sanitize”…
The virus deeply affected our economies, closed down schools, stopped religious services and brought serious concerns about the present and the future.
We saw our loved ones being infected and some of them dying – including our own Prime Minister. The virus – in fact – does not check age, race, profession, religion, country of origin…
The new year is never new from the box. I have said this before. We won’t be leaving COVID19 behind at the beginning of this 2021. Not yet. Not for some time.
We won’t be leaving behind the consequences of this pandemic which are deep: unemployment, hunger, the uncertainty of what is to come, the hurt experienced because of GBV… We are far from knowing what “the new normal” will be.
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Which one is your prayer then on this very first day of 2021? What are you asking the Lord for?
I always find it powerful that every year on this very first day we read from the book of Numbers about the way Moses was to bless the Israelites. I particularly like the line where it says:
“May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace”
As we remember 2020, we certainly have memories of very difficult times for each one of us and for the world. But, did you also experience God’s presence? As you look back, do you only see the difficult times you went through or also God carrying you through them?
You are probably familiar with the story or poem called: Footprints In The Sand
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed
he was walking along the beach with the LORD.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene he noticed two sets
of footprints in the sand:
one belonging to him, and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of
his life there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very
lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he
questioned the LORD about it:
“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that
during the most troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why
when I needed you most you would leave me.”
The LORD replied:
“My son, my precious child,
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only ONE set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”
I do hope that is how you experience God’s presence. I do hope that God revealed his face to you as the One who never abandons us and who carries us during the times of trial and suffering because that will give us peace as we welcome this new year.
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Today’s gospel passage (Lk 2: 16 – 21) is overwhelming in its simplicity. Having received news of great joy to be shared by the whole world, the shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem to see what the angel had told them. They found Mary, Joseph and the baby lying in the manger. Nothing else. No fireworks. Nothing extraordinary, on the contrary. Even if this child is “Christ the Lord”! Still, they went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. In other words, the shepherds were able to see God’s face in that child. God’s face was revealed to them in that baby lying in the manger and they glorified and praised God.
Hope and pray that you too are able to see the face of a God of mercy and consolation, the face of a God who keeps us strong and hopeful in trying times, the God who carries us on his shoulders – like the Good Shepherd – when we feel things are just too much… so that you are blessed with his peace as you go through the new year.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace.
(This text was prepared for the daily reflection on MP3 organised by our diocese)