When Sandra Lindsay, an African American nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center became the first person in the US to be vaccinated with the Messenger RNA vaccine, she simply said, “I feel like healing is coming!” Could there be a better articulation of joyful expectation right now? I think not!
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ child, we also welcome the vaccine, which is a tangible expression of good news! The vaccine is a wondrous sign of hope in what has been a long, arduous, and winding road when essential workers fought sacrificially for healing many, we lost many, and we now have a way to be protected since this global pandemic strangled us all.
Thank you for exercising reason, respecting science, and staying on the path of competent humility. The evidence for this is in the fact that we protected each other in Episcopal churches as best we could for over nine months while also sustaining the church with loyal financial stewardship. You have continued worship, fellowship, and formation in this prolonged season of uncertainly! Breathe! The virus has claimed more than 300K lives in the US and over 1.6 million lives globally! Regionally, the infection is ragging, and we feel its impact among loved ones who are testing positive in our congregations. Please be kind to yourselves. Please be extra careful. Please know of our collective prayers for each of you.
Liturgical seasons are icons of life relevantly embedding spiritual memory within us because life happens, often not according to the chronology of a liturgical calendar. The vaccine, however, couldn’t be better timed than during this season of joyful expectation, in Sandra Lindsay’s words, to “…feel like healing is coming.” Let me share a few thoughts on this incredible vaccine. The Messenger Ribonucleic Acid or mRNA was first recorded between 1945 and 1950. It has been researched for nearly thirty years generally and for at least a decade, particularly. It is unlike any other vaccine before. Here’s why.
Traditional vaccines involved injecting a weakened virus or a piece of the virus’s protein into the body to induce antibodies that fight the virus in reaction to the provocation. This prepares the body’s immune system to fight the actual virus. This is broadly how it worked with polio and measles vaccines.
The mRNA is different in that it is neither a virus nor even part of a virus. Instead, it is a messenger, much like an angel bearing good news. The mRNA educates the immune system of the body through a coded message that triggers the body to create the proteins necessary to guard against the Coronavirus! Much like Mary hearing the words of the angel Gabriel or the shepherds hearing the words of the angels, including “fear not,” or “Do not be afraid!” Before the angelic message, there was only uncertainty, anxiety, and fear. However, once the messenger credibly gets through, there is enlightenment, education, formation! Much like the mRNA educates the body to fight the virus and heal the dis-ease, the Body of Christ responds to a message of instruction and encouragement to produce the necessary antibodies that transform our anxiety and fear into hope and joy!
Dearly Beloved, be of good courage! God is with you! Love one another. Safely reach out to each other to communicate this love. That’s what Jesus did when the Word became flesh. May the message of hope and the messenger Jesus brighten your path amidst the despair, disease, division, and bleakness of this day! Remember, Christ was born! Love is here! Healing is here, and coming! So have a Happy Christmas and a Healthy New Year!
Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh
Episcopal Diocese of Rochester