The Silent Holy Night of Hope
Two events mark the central pillars of our faith. We celebrate these solemnly at the Christmas and Easter liturgies. As Pope Benedict XVI affirms in his book, ‘Jesus of Nazareth – the Infancy Narratives’, “these [events] are two moments in the story of Jesus when God intervenes directly in the material world…” One, with the Blessed Virgin Mary giving birth to the Son of the Triune God. And two, with Jesus rising from the dead that first Sunday; for God could not let his body undergo corruption. This year 2020, out of the streak of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), we celebrated Easter on April 12th. But not in the usual manner of celebration, nor with the traditional fanfare.
Across the globe, governments had suspended public gatherings and decreed lockdowns, with attempts to slow the spread of the virus. In swift cooperation, bishops also dispensed with congregations at liturgies, waiving the obligations attendant thereto. Then, they encouraged spiritual and virtual forms of worship for persons privately in their families. This “new normal” felt odd for everyone, but the faithful marked Jesus’ Resurrection with like conviction.About nine months after, with COVID-19 still lingering, we look to celebrating Christmas. And celebrate we will, for we are a people of hope!
The hope to see a better tomorrow; the drive to pull through hard times. For, alight behind the gloom of our challenges are the smiles of our hope.But, don’t take my word for it! Observe for yourself what the city streets have to offer. For example, many are the emaciated little children roaming about in tatters, but who still put on a face of the resolve to survive.
One or two may be in some corner crying their hunger and thirst away, as they cling to their stoic-looking mothers. Several others would be romping away their plight, in the joy of just being kids! Regardless, they will all want to celebrate Christmas in whichever shape it dawns. Around this time, Kampala City and adjoining districts tend to congest with both human and vehicular traffic. This is an area with most business, leisure, and residential activities in the country. It is also the region where security personnel tend to enforce presidential guidelines on COVID-19 with an unmistakable ruthless passion.
However, the police and counterpart forces ought to put in mind that people are only emerging from the lockdown. Nothing should therefore hold anyone from realizing the merriment of Christmas. Not the murky politics even in this time of our ever-violent general elections, and certainly not the COVID-19! Everyone’s hope is their strength in the midst of challenges. In that sure and certain hope for something more positive, we all keep trust in God.
Pope Francis put it better in his homily at the Mass this past Easter, when he said that with Jesus in us, we are never shaken even if we may be tested. He preached: “[…] whatever sadness may dwell in us, we will be strengthened in hope, since with you [Jesus] the cross leads to the resurrection, because you are with us in the darkness of our nights; you are certainty amid our uncertainties, the word that speaks in our silence, and nothing can ever rob us of the love you have for us.”
Now once again, with great hope, we come to celebrate Christmas. While we may still be required to social distance ourselves and wear face masks, we will gather in one love and faith to commemorate our saviour Jesus’ birth. Perhaps, even more fervently than before, we will pray that his light threads up the current darkness of our gloom―the COVID, the sectarian injustices, political intolerance, corrupt tendencies, and sensual lust. For we trust in the Lord’s power to make things anew.
Therefore, we have the courage to toast to this hope, which the world first embraced at the fullness of time that silent, holy night while the shepherds watched their flock.
By Rev. Fr. Jean-Marie Nsambu
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