(Dr (Fr) John Parankimalil, SDB).
Today is the last day of 2020. We have been hearing a lot of voices through videos, emails and posts… “The worst year 2020”, “I am sick of 2020”, “Get rid of 2020”. Well, 2020 is the year that we will never forget. But to hate it and to wish it way would also mean that we’re letting go of a great opportunity to profit from some of the most crucial lessons that 2020 has taught us.
This year has helped us to grow more in our dependence on the Lord. We learned that humans propose, set several goals and make many plans but God has full authority to dispose our proposals. And His verdict is the final. We just have to obey!
We have realized how insignificant we are before nature. God has blessed us with immense knowledge, but we cannot fight a virus that is so small that it is invisible. We have not reached the heights we are unnecessarily proud of achieving. That we need to humble ourselves and work harder!
All of us, some more than others have learnt patience, empathy, minimalism – that we really don’t need so much. We saw life differently for the first time. We saw the ending of incessant activity for the first time. We saw ourselves extraordinarily quiet for the first time. We saw many people relaxing for the first time. We saw nature at its best for the first time. We saw families knitting together as never before for the first time.
We learnt that life is the biggest blessing. That we’re alive, we’re still breathing! We need to thank God for giving us a chance to survive this pandemic when thousands have lost their lives. Now we must learn to value life. Death can approach from anywhere and put a full stop to this glorious chapter. We need to enjoy this gift while we still have it.
The pandemic has taught us the difference between need and want. We want the entire world, but do we need it? No. We just run behind the desires ignoring the small happiness in life. Ultimately, we end up achieving nothing. Most of us have learned to live with minimal things, the things we need!
It has taught us that we should not take things for granted. We began to appreciate the food we were eating, the bed we were sleeping on, the house we were in, the job we were having, the salary we were receiving etc. It taught us to appreciate every person who plays a role in our life, whether it be a cook, a maid, or a driver. We take them for granted. Without them, life is so tough.
This pandemic has that happiness comes with contentment. Being satisfied and grateful for all that we have. Life is short. We do not know when we will fall into the deep dark trench called death. Before that, we need to be happy and live life to the fullest.
This year has taught us to slow down, to relax. It taught us that the world will go on without any of us. It has taught us the value of giving, sharing and caring. Sharing our clothes, food, and amenities with others gave us an immeasurable pleasure. The blessings that came out of the heart of a needy person reached the sky instantly. It brought about miracles.
Pope Francis once said, “Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is…life is good when you are happy; but much better when others are happy because of you.”
At the same time, we look back at those negative moments that have left us bitter. We saw people dying all around us, unable even to have last look at them when they left this world. We saw many people suffering unduly, the migrant crisis; people losing their jobs, their only means of livelihood. We saw people struggling for food. We saw media at its worst. At this time, we also saw many people willing to share what they had with those in need. We saw generosity at its best. We also saw selfishness.
In all these experiences, however, we saw God was there with us. Today, we thank him from the bottom of our hearts. As we leave this year behind, and as we step into a new year, we move ahead with hope. We hope that things will happen in a way that we as humans may live life being sensitive to one another. We hope to retain all that contributed towards humanity and towards our relationship with God during the pandemic. He is still there with us in our problems and helps us to come out of these problems. Though we may be unfaithful to him, he will always be faithful to us.
Life will suddenly not change on the first of January. Our problems and our tragedies will not go away just because the date has changed. James 1:2-6 says “My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. But if any of you lack wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all. But when you pray, you must believe and not doubt at all. Whoever doubts is like a wave in the sea that is driven and blown about by the wind.”
David, the ancient Jewish king said “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I may learn thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:71) We learn some important lesson in life, only through difficult situation. Suffering is there to correct us, when responded positively. God is far more interested in our character than in our comfort. Psalmist says “It was the best thing that could have happened to me, for it taught me to pay attention to your laws.” God wants to use the troubles for good in our lives. Often times, we react rudely rather than pausing to consider what benefit they might bring. The Coronavirus and the prolonged lockdowns have helped us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us to trust God more than rely on our own strength. Our relationship with God and our character are the only two things we’re going to take with us into eternity. I invite you to this journey with God during this New Year, so that it may be a happy, healthy, fulfilling and mindful year 2021.
Dr (Fr) John Parankimalil SDB,
Don Bosco Institute of Management, Guwahati.