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Had you enough of 2020 yet, Bunky?

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

By any measure it has been a tough year, at least for we weary pilgrims. The word “pilgrims” seems to be most apt for these previous 339 days of 2020 which first offered such great potential; as we soon found ourselves continuously buffeted by events seemingly out of our control and slogging along this path called, “life.” Our lives have been repetitively challenged by societal limits, community and individual frustrations, divisive politics, and the constant blare of noteworthy and notorious sirens telling us of the calamity of our worldwide pandemic. 

In downtown Cincinnati, Ohio they purchased a tall Norway spruce to be installed in the city center. It appeared to be beautifully majestic as the crane lifted the favored object skyward. Soon the trunk was securely fastened and a those assembled gasped as the ropes were cut and the misshapen tree revealed. It was quite lopsided, with numerous sections showing no limbs whatsoever. It was really a mess; sort of like much of 2020.

Of course, the debate soon began about what to do; as though this was another crisis. Some insisted that it remain as it was, for it was indicative of the year’s events. Others insisted that it was an anathema and had to be corrected. In the end, the city drilled holes, inserted more branches, trimmed and “fluffed” up the tree. All in all, it now looks fairly respectable. Covered with lights and ornaments, the now famous tree shines forth. Yet, no matter what efforts are expended to cover up the original, the initial visage of the evergreen remains. What were frowns before, have turned into a particular partiality for the bedraggled conifer; with frequent references to Charlie Brown’s tree.

It’s easy to be weary, given the onslaught of this year’s events. The forecasts for next year are clouded, with the potential for a continuation of the same. Political uncertainties, a current lack of a distributed efficacious COVID-19 vaccine, and employment challenges bring forward the question, “Had you had enough of 2020 yet, Bunky?” Certainly, most of us would leap up and reply with a resounding “YES!”

Yet, in our fervor to reply, we may have missed the moniker, “Bunky.” It is a term which implies a commonality, as in bunking together on a ship, or in a barracks. In such an arrangement, we are all living in common and quite near to each other.  Each of our bunkmates is important to us, as we rely on their performance, as well as our own. While we may not be in the same close proximity, what we say and what we do does have an effect on our fellow, “Bunkys.”

When Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into our midst, he knew all the many torments of humankind and the travails of their earthly pilgrimage. Our Savior knows all of the many torments of humankind we suffer now. What is so difficult for us to grasp is the supernatural presence of our Creator, within ourselves, and put the natural presence of our most difficult world subordinate to that divinity. While we will soon have 2020 in the rearview mirror, what impact has it had upon our relationship with ourselves, others and God?

Consider the Gospel of John, as Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you have loved one another.” He goes on, “Let not your hearts be troubled; if you believe in God, believe also in me.”

Take time away from all of the fevered distractions of this world. Perhaps turning off the TV, smartphone and computer will bring an awkward silence.  Then, in the quiet, we may find that not only are we all “Bunkys,” but God, through Jesus Christ, is there too.