New Year Reflection 2021
A New Year Reflection from Director of Jesuit Missions, Paul Chitnis.
Few of us will be sorry to see the back of 2020.
We all desperately want 2021 to be different, for the pandemic to end and normality – whatever that was – to return.
Our world and all of us in it are being tested like never before.
My own experience of this test has revived a memory of a time when I was driving up a steep hill in Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I overtook a small, fragile-looking woman, her back arched under the enormous weight of firewood that she was carrying. Her eyes were lasered with concentration onto the road ahead. I imagine every muscle in her body was bursting with pain as she edged up that hill.
But without the wood, she would not have been able to feed her family. She had no choice but to shoulder her burden for the sake of others.
Two years ago, a Jesuit whom I met in South Sudan was murdered a few days after we had shared a meal together in the very room in which he was shot. Fr Victor-Luke Odihambo was helping to train teachers in a country where most of them have barely attained one GCSE. He knew the risks but, like the woman in the DRC, he accepted the challenge of building up South Sudan. I asked Fr Victor-Luke why he did so and he told me:
“We cannot despair. We must do something.”
We do not know what 2021 will bring. It is likely to be difficult for many.
At Christmas, God entered into the messiness of our lives. He is crucified whenever COVID19 ends someone’s life. He cries with those who suffer and mourn. He too carries his burden, a wooden cross, up a hill.
But there is more because the morning dawns on a blood stained yet empty cross. Light shines into a deserted tomb. God has gone before us.
We cannot despair.