Fr. Frank McDevitt is the pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Aurora, Ont.
We find ourselves on this Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of rejoicing. There may be those who find this call to rejoice to be a bit of stretch with the strange world we find ourselves living in at present.
COVID persists, causing deaths, hardship and chaos. Yet we are called to a Sunday of rejoicing.
Attendance at Mass is severely restricted at my parish and many others. And in large parts of the diocese Mass is not available at all. But we are called to a Sunday of rejoicing.
Lots of folks who would like to attend Mass at Christmas will not be able to this year because of sickness or vulnerability to the virus. And yet we are called to a Sunday of rejoicing.
Families and individuals are restricted in how they gather and, for some, it is turning into a rather lonely time. But we are called to a Sunday of rejoicing.
It is easy for us to get lost in the uncertainty.
To embrace the anxiety which motivates so much of the news media.
But still we are called to this Sunday of rejoicing.
In spite of everything this crazy year offers, we begin this new Church year with this season of Advent.
We claim this sacred time.
Sacred because we are in this time of Advent preparation.
We anticipate the bright promise of new life.
We are moving toward that light and we testify to that light.
We are witness to the oppressed, the broken hearted and the captives.
This COVID Christmas may make us aware of many who fit this bill.
We are an expectant people, anxious to be witnesses to new birth.
In Advent the Church is that womb that prepares for the birth of Christ.
There is much to discourage us, to restrain us, but we are Christians and we rejoice in this sacred time.
We stand like John the Baptist as a voice of hope, of reassurance. We cry out in the wilderness.
The sacredness of this time is not just in the Church’s design for spiritual renewal in this Advent season. On a fully human level, it is a sacred time as great women and men of science seek a sure-fire vaccine to end this pandemic. This sacred time when just this past week the very first vaccines were given to the public.
This sacred time when we have been called to remember the elders and to be called a “frontline worker” is to wear a badge of honour.
It is a sacred time in our schools, where the work of our teachers seems to evolve constantly.
It is a sacred time for all those who give shape to our lives, order to our community and with their work, even in these difficult times, call us to be witness to new life.
It is a sacred time as we wear our masks, wash our hands and keep our distance, not for ourselves, but for others.
It is a sacred time when we find ways to connect with others. For we make the path straight for the Lord by the way we form ourselves in Advent, but we make the path straight by our advocacy for the wellbeing of the community, too.
The Church is that singular sanctuary where life is formed and re-formed in this difficult time.
We look with anticipation for the day when COVID is history. This is surely our hope, just as our life in Christ is our hope.
We travel through this Advent season – with all of its distractions – embracing the final stanza of the beautiful Advent hymn, “People Look East:”
Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to Earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today;
Love the Lord, is on his way.
I do not know when COVID will be eradicated. I do not know if more restrictions are coming and how it will impact Christmas.
What I do know is that we are waiting in this sacred time of Advent to celebrate the promise of new birth and that we wait in this sacred time of common cause as a society eager to be on the path to new life. For this reason we rejoice.