Advent: A ray of light in COVID era

O Clarim News Desk (English)

We are preparing to celebrate a miracle on Christmas day – the miracle of the Incarnation, God becoming man.  An event that took place 2,000 years ago, and yet each year we wait to celebrate this amazing event within our Church. During the Advent Masses, we have beautiful scripture readings that are worth meditating upon, prophesying the coming of Jesus. The Belen, or the Nativity scene, is now being set up in major parks in Macau to remind us of this event. In our churches and in some of our homes, we have an advent wreath, where we light a candle on each of the weeks of advent like a countdown. So even during these difficult extended years of the pandemic, the children in our homes were excited that Christmas was coming, and I’m sure even in these still difficult times, we will make every preparation to make it a special time for them.

Indeed, Advent is a time of waiting, expectation, and of hope. This year, we are all waiting, expecting, and hoping for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are waiting for and expecting a shorter quarantine period in Macau. We look forward with hope to a return to normal life, to not have to worry about being in lockdown again. Instead, to be able to travel freely.  We wait in joyful expectation for the coming of the normal life we used to have. We look forward to going out to eat and shopping without those required health protocols and the worry of contracting the virus. We look forward to attending sports events and enjoying full stadiums. We look forward to continual in-person classes in our schools, without worrying about having to resort to virtual classes. For the foreigners in Macau, we wait with the hope of being able to visit our loved ones in our home countries.

To date, according to ‘Our World in Data’, 68.2% of the world population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 12.93 billion doses have been administered globally. The Covid vaccine will help keep communities safe, help us bring back the economy, open schools for children worldwide, and allow them the freedom to play like before. We wait and we hope.

Yet, even when life returns to normal, there will not be an end to sickness and suffering. There will not be an end to all the loneliness and isolation. The sorrows of life will not disappear.  The production of a vaccine, an amazing accomplishment of science, which we have hoped and prayed for, will not bring peace to the world. As wonderful as it is, a vaccine will not eradicate the diseases of the spirit that are part of our life in this valley of tears. It will not eradicate sin and injustice. A vaccine will not bring eternal life. It will not inoculate us against sin and death.

Deep down, we will still feel a longing for something greater, a longing for unending happiness, a longing for joy, peace, and love. In a word, we long for salvation, we long for God. Without Him, we have no ultimate hope and will not find joy and peace. Without Him, we go through life as a journey toward death. With Him, we go through life as a journey toward the fullness of life.

A local from St. Lawrence Church has this interesting reflection: “Yes in Macau, we are still limited in what we can do. You might even feel as if you’ve lost control. That’s a very natural response in these unprecedented times. Recently, we got plenty of time to rest, but rest isn’t only good for our physical health. It’s good for our spiritual and emotional health, too.”

In Advent, we encounter a meaningful rest and waiting.  This season calls us to intensify our prayer so as to welcome the Lord more fully into our lives. We are to be watchful in prayer for the coming of the Lord, preparing to receive the Lord who comes to show us His mercy and give us His salvation.

As we prepare to commemorate Christ’s coming at Christmas and as we await His glorious return, we also recognize that He comes now. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He did not leave us here alone. He comes to us in the grace of the sacraments. As one of our church goers at the cathedral said: “I don’t know if we will get to the end of this COVID 19 pandemic and consider our faith “unwavering.” However, my prayer is that, as we suffer, we are always comforted by our faith. This makes the advent season really meaningful; we learn to wait in hope that the God of the Promise will come.”

Jesus, who came among us at Christmas and will return in glory at the end of time, constantly comes to us in the events of our lives. He is always near us. He accompanies us in every situation, in joys and in sorrows, in health and in sickness. He is always close to us. And He has given us His Mother to accompany us as well. In Advent, we will celebrate her Immaculate Conception. In this season of hope, we turn to her, our Mother of Hope, to guide us. In her heart and in her womb, she bore the Incarnate Son of God. She directs us to Him. Mary our Mother encourages us and supports us with her love and her prayers as we await the coming of her Son.

Yes, Advent can be a long season — a miserable one, if we do not have hope. But with hope, we can live through it and accept whatever we are suffering because we are sure of one thing: the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. His coming is enough to justify our longing, our hope, and our perseverance through any hard times.