Several months ago I was commissioned to write this article. They did it ahead of time to make sure I had time to ponder it. But the truth is, all that advance was not useful to me, because in order to write about how to live in 2021 it is necessary to be at the crossroads of the change of the solar year. And today, a day before the end of the year, I can just visualize how to orient these words.
This year 2020 is obviously a special year. It is the first year in our history that a phenomenon, such as the pandemic, has truly been a global event that has affected all places on our planet; even, unfortunately, to Antarctica, where the first cases of contagion were detected last week. The situation has escalated to such a magnitude that the High Commissioner of the United Nations, Michelle Bachelet, has assured that the pandemic has exposed all our weaknesses as a society, in a setback in the defense and care of all human rights. But this globalizing effect has not removed the particular processes: last week Iran began testing its COVID-19 vaccine, Bangladesh relocates Rohingya refugees to a remote island as an imperative necessity, China condemned the journalist who reported on the pandemic in Wuhan and pro-rights activists from Hong Kong, the Semeru volcano of Java erupts, in November the typhoon Vamco involved the evacuation of more than 300,000 people in the Philippines, while the cease-fire and activations of the war in Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno Karabakh were also taking place.
In this busy context, it is legitimate to ask ourselves: what does 2021 have in store for us? The truth is that the panorama is difficult to change, even when the vaccine for covid-19 is found, it is difficult for the world to return to normal, instead the so-called “new normal” will be imposed for several years. On the other hand, regional processes, especially conflicts, will most likely be affected. All this fragile context is a clear “sign of the times” for us: a deep call from the Church to respond, serve and be part (not just accompany).
How do we then prepare to respond to the needs that this 2021 puts in front of us? The first is with optimism, because as Christians we should not fear the world. That language of “we are not of this world” no longer applies to this context, even the words “to accompany” humanity are obsolete … because those words leave us out of it, and we are called to be a leaven in the dough, and the dough only leaven if the yeast is fully integrated into the dough.
However, optimism is not enough. And here comes to my mind the title of a very suggestive book that seems to me to be the perfect answer to the previous question: “Detoxify your spiritual life in forty days” by Peter Graystone. This book has an interesting proposition. But what I want to rescue and propose is the need to detoxify our spiritual life to prepare ourselves, with an optimistic outlook, to live 2021 serving, healing, liberating and loving from the depths of our Palautian being.
Detoxifying our spiritual life from the Palautian charism is actually an action that goes beyond the “spiritual” realm, because in the unity of the human being the „earthly” is deeply „spiritual”, and the „everyday” and „common” holds deep mystical senses that only sensitive eyes can glimpse . So how do we prepare for the mission in 2021?
- A Change in our diet: food and spirituality always go hand in hand, because food often moves emotional-spiritual needs. Nourishing our body properly prepares us to nourish ourselves in spiritual life. A few weeks of cooked and baked fruits and vegetables; to avoid processed foods, to reduce carbohydrates, meat and especially fried foods. The „food temperance” will cause a change and well-being in our digestive system, which will affect an emotional-spiritual disposition.
- A Change in our physical activity: sedentary lifestyle accompanies and promotes spaces prone to depressive conditions. It is important to find spaces that call us to exercise. I’m not talking here about joining a gym, which is a good option, but to take care of our “healthy body and mind”. It is impossible to have a good spiritual life if we do not physically take care of ourselves. Nowadays human beings are more inactive than ever, so if we do not do some physical activity during the day it can be good to dedicate 20 minutes a day to it, even if it’s just walking.
- Say goodbye to a vice: a great exercise of will, self-care, the exercise of virtues, and spiritual growth is to leave a vice. Whether it’s a physical vice like smoking or drinking, even if only for a while, but also emotional vices like constantly victimizing yourself, or spiritual ones like that constant anger within, that need for attention that I desire from others, or envy in front of the love that others share. Becoming aware of our vices and taking actions to stop them puts us in the right direction to orient ourselves to the service of our beloved, our God-Relationship.
- Recover a Relationship: When we say „to recover a relationship”, we are not only talking about broken relationships, but also about those that for things in life have distanced themselves without necessarily having had a problem. Sometimes the hustle and bustle of life, routine, and worries take us away from direct and close contact with others. It is always good to return to it, because the more we interact, the more we build the Church, the more we build the Kingdom. It is in us a fully prophetic act. And this recovery does not have to be waiting for everything to be as before, even less putting things from the past to the face; it is to rebuild with a new look, as that God-Relationship always does with us.
- Away from toxic people: One of Palau’s mandates is to put communion above all else, but this should not be misunderstood as that “communion endures everything”. Actually, although communion has no limits, it does have demands, and one of those is that in order to keep communion, sometimes you have to distance yourself from those who harm us, who deliberately desire our misfortune, or simply their life is so intoxicated that it does not benefit us. Strangely, that distance, that „guarding of the heart”, will allow us to safeguard the communion that we long for. Because communion does not imply that we all get along, even less that we are all friends; and for no reason to contaminate us with those who take away our strength, life, and their words that hurt us.
- Contemplate: It has always seemed to me that it is a physical, spiritual and mental exercise. It is really difficult to contemplate, but that is one of the favorite acts of our father Palau, who performed it at all times, having as a predilection the cities and the fields. Exercise contemplating your life today: watch it in it’s passing, analyze in periods, look for the Church hidden in it. What great benefits does he get who manages to contemplate his life and be honest with himself! Do I really do all this for the Church? Am I still passionate about her?
- Bind yourself: The last and most difficult is binding. Among Palautians we are used to talk about relationships, and we forget that sometimes relationships can also be distant, tense. Having a relationship with someone does not imply that the path is already made. Francesc not only understood the relationships between people with a mystical gaze, he not only saw the earthly and spiritual world united and interconnected; but above all Francesc was bund with others. And bonding is establishing an emotional bond with other people who also experience it for you. It’s reciprocal! It is loving each other, it is saying I love you. Does this cause us scandal? Well, let evil cause us scandal more than love, and if there are comments, they speak more of the heart of the person who emits them than of the event itself.
These 7 steps are a small guideline to detoxify our life from this hard and difficult 2020, and prepare to live with strength, and not exhausted and sad this 2021. May your eyes shine this January 1st, despite all that may happen, because there is a Young Woman who loves you and thinks about you, and gives her life for you.
Orlando Carvallo C.
Villa Alemana, Valparaíso-Chile, December 2020