Advent is a time of anticipation for the celebration of the birth of Christ and a time to reflect on the meaning of Christ’s presence in the here and now and his second coming in the future.
During the Advent season, we hear stories of faith, courage and giving of one’s self for others. Jesus, born of a human mother, Mary, became one of us in every way but sin and selflessly gave his life to redeem sinners. Mary, a young woman of faith, trusted God and accepted becoming the mother of Christ, knowing that in the eyes of her neighbors this would make her an unwed mother, possibly even subject to stoning.
Joseph, her betrothed, in his faithfulness trusted God and accepted the role of husband and protector of Mary, knowing that would at least cause some of his neighbors to ridicule him for having an unfaithful wife. Joseph’s faith gave him, a carpenter from Nazareth, the courage to lead his wife and child to a foreign country, the journey fraught with peril from robbers or Herod’s men seeking to kill them.
Within this Advent season, we have a medical crisis across the spectrum of health care needs, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, Iowa Capital Dispatch reported that 777 people infected by the coronavirus were receiving inpatient treatment at Iowa hospitals Dec. 8, the highest number yet this year, according to state data. “Hospitals are in a staffing crisis,” said Jennifer Nutt of the Iowa Hospital Association. The Capital Dispatch also reported that state officials are in the process of hiring 100 temporary nurses and respiratory therapists to help alleviate those shortages at 17 facilities that provide higher levels of care.
Iowa’s bishops recently launched a video campaign urging vaccination for the common good, as does Pope Francis. The unvaccinated represent the majority of COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized and dying. That leaves other patients waiting for elective surgery and some waiting for hours in the emergency rooms. Hospitals in our diocese report a strain on available beds and the staff to care for patients. The stress on medical personnel is causing job loss due to burnout or their own illnesses, while people with heart conditions, injuries from accidents and other healthcare challenges are competing with COVID-19 patients for treatment.
Even neighborhoods are feeling the impact of COVD-19. Pharmacies in many parts of the diocese are closing for additional days or cutting business hours to preserve the sanity of limited staff and their ability to work carefully. Some people who declined the opportunity to get vaccinated to protect their loved ones are living, and dying, with the consequences. Others remain in the hospital for an extended period.
Safe, effective vaccines are widely available. This Advent, we pray for all to have the courage and willingness to make personal sacrifices for the good of self, loved ones and others. Please go to your local pharmacy or other community sites providing vaccinations. Encourage your loved ones to do the same.
(Glenn Leach is a member of St. Ann Parish in Long Grove and a volunteer with the Diocese of Davenport’s Social Action and Immigration offices.)