What can be said of 2021? It was a tough year for all of us for sure and yet it was also full of grace and light. As Charles Dickens once said, it was the best of times and the worst of times. That is certainly true for many of us—2021 was a great year and it was a brutal year. But that quote from Dickens from the Tale of Two Cities has a few more lines that seem even more apt than the more famous first line. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was a season of darkness, it was a spring of hope, it was a winter of despair.
Yes indeed. 2021 was a year in which we saw so much wisdom and foolishness, belief and incredulity, light and darkness, hope and despair. With the advent of COVID vaccinations early in 2021, we all had so much hope and relief that this pandemic would be finally behind us. As we approached the July 4th holiday, we thought that the end was in sight; only to find another virus at play in our world—disinformation and obtuseness. As we close 2021, we are fighting the Omicron variant taking hold throughout the world with another possible deadly surge in infections. We all wonder, “When will this end and what will a new normal look like?”
Then, there are the endless challenges that come our way with the vicissitudes of life. Many of you have suffered huge losses in your life and still feel the effects of those losses. I know well the pain of loss as I have often shared my own personal challenges of losing so many close to me; especially my brother, Paul and my spiritual director, Fr. Dave to pancreatic cancer. Indeed, I write this column in Ireland, where I will preside over a memorial service here for Paul with Bishop PJ McGrath for my family and friends in Ireland.
But before we close the door on 2021, I cannot help but be grateful for that year too. Not because of the pain and loss, but because of the love shared in community that came as a consequence of the loss. I was deeply touched by the outpouring of love from this community and my former parish as well as the community of priests. I have seen and experienced God’s love in more ways this year than any other year previous. Even though I understand God less because of the pain and confusion. I have come to love him more because of the abundance of love shared. Yes, 2021 was the best of times and the worst of times.
My hope for all of us is that 2022 will be a great year and that we will have the faith to see the grace that God will grant us throughout the year ahead no matter what is in store for us. But we need to choose to respond to all things in faith. Then the year ahead will be a grace-filled year. The message of Christmas is critical to us living that reality.
As Ron Rolheiser recently said about Christmas, “The power of Christmas is not automatic. It can’t be taken for granted. It has to be given birth, nursed, coaxed, and lovingly cajoled into effectiveness. The baby Jesus doesn’t save the world, the adult Christ does, and our task is to turn the baby Jesus into the adult Christ. We need to do that in our own bodies and with our own lives. To put it metaphorically, the Christ-child has to be awakened by us…We awaken the Christ-child when we smile at charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, longsuffering, fidelity, gentleness, and chastity until they begin to smile back. What comes back is the power of Christmas, a baby’s power to transform a heart and divine power hidden in human weakness.
We have to help make Christmas happen.” We will make the year 2022 a great year by our choices in faith. Thank you for being the great community that you have been and continue to be. Happy New Year from Ireland.
Before I close, I also want to extend my gratitude to so many people who made the Christmas Mass celebrations so inspiring. I am always reluctant to name any individuals because we cannot name everyone personally. But having said that, the staff went over and above in their duties to make the place beautiful and keep everything running smoothly. In a special way the liturgy committee did incredible work for Christmas celebrations. Thank you to Erika Ibarra, Jim Todd, Margo Isola, David Mendenhall, Tamami Honma, Maryanne Quincy, Tim Peterson, Kim Karmirantzos, Julie Ramirez, Fr. Thuc and each of their committee members. I want to especially mention the Art & Environment teams with Beth Moeur, Keeth Courpet, Elizabeth Montgomery, Joe Eder, Art Carmichael and his team, Victor Ramirez, Baldemar Godoy and so many others. In a special way, thank you to Tamami Honma, the adult choir, the children’s choir, Jed DeTorres and all the cantors and musicians. Each of the Masses were beautiful. Thank you all so much.