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Yearning for pandemic’s end, we can try to make the most of tranquility in Advent: Edith Avila Olea

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A depiction of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem sculpted from sand is displayed in the Italian resort town of Jesolo. Advent begins Nov. 29 this year. (CNS photo/Jesolo Tourism Office)

Advent is less than a week away! This is the time we take to reflect on the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ. As Catholics we have our unique traditions like the lighting of candles before Mass and for Mexican Catholics, we have the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and “Las Posadas.”

Edith Avila Olea writes the “In Pursuit of Justice” column for Catholic News Service. (CNS photo/courtesy Edith Avila Olea)

I keep asking myself, what will Advent look like in 2020? Will it be a similar experience to Easter this past spring, where churches were closed and family gatherings were paused? Or will churches remain open and social distanced?

The thought of Advent where people are socially distanced and Mass celebrations are limited or masked makes me a bit sad. Like you probably, I’m over the pandemic. Selfishly, I’m just so tired.

Maybe we need a quieter end to 2020. Maybe we need to take time for ourselves to reflect on how we have allowed Christ to bring us healing and grow our faith or how we have not allowed Christ into our hearts this year.

Maybe we need to sit with our complicity in the injustices and inequities of today. Maybe we need to give ourselves time to rest from the stress of the pandemic. Maybe we need to give ourselves space from the obsessive consumerism that our holidays have become.

Wherever you look, you can see pain and hurt. I’m asking myself, What have I done this year to make our country and world better than it was at the start of the year? What have I done with the treasures God gifted me when 2020 started? Did I bury them or invest them? And if I invested them, did they go to the poor or the rich?

I think we all might agree, we as a nation experienced a great amount of disappointment. No matter what side you are on, it was hard to watch as the nation grappled with the stark reality of our current divisions. As I watched, and on occasion even protested, I felt a deep sadness.

If we believe that all humans are made in the image of Christ, why do we continue to alienate the most vulnerable in our society? Instead of lifting each other up, there was a lot of tearing down, even from Christians. Why? Does God’s love not transcend races and borders? Does God’s love not transcend political ideologies and personal preferences?

Maybe you’ve heard of this story before, but here’s my 2020 version. We were lost in the midst of a pandemic and needed to be rescued. The World Health Organization came to try to save us, but we told WHO that we were waiting for God to arrive, so we sent them away. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tried to save us, but we told them we were waiting for God to arrive, so we sent them away. Doctors, scientists and epidemiologists keep coming from across the nation and world, but we still keep sending them away.

America is drowning, yet we keep pushing God’s rescuers away. If and when we get to heaven and ask God about 2020, how do you think he will respond?

All this is to say that maybe we should stop blaming “2020” for a disastrous year and reflect on our own actions in 2020. Did we send our own rescuers away or have we accepted God’s aid? Have we allowed ourselves to be guided by God’s wisdom or the devil’s foolishness?

As we all continue to make plans or not, I pray we take the time to slow down. Consider those who have suffered and lost in 2020 before moving forward. I don’t know what Advent or Christmas will look like, but I suppose it doesn’t matter. A quieter Mass or smaller gathering does not diminish Christ’s coming. May we allow him to enter into our hearts this Advent season.

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Edith Avila Olea works in immigrant advocacy.