Seeking the Gift of Christ’s Mercy this Advent
Over the last several months, our newspapers, our TV screens, and social media feeds have been filled with images of so many people in such desperate situations. From the streets of Paris, to the borders of the countries of Eastern Europe to the war-torn towns of Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, people are dying, wounded and homeless. Many of these situations appear hopeless. For this reason, we can all welcome the season of Advent and its invitation to remember that into the darkness of the world, a light shines (John 1:5).
In the first Mass reading for this first Sunday of Advent, the prophet Jeremiah proclaims “In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: ‘The Lord, our justice’” (Jeremiah 33:15-16). What seems out of reach for our world if we depend only on our own devices is well within the reach of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Both the turmoil in our world today and our own actions in creating bitterness and unrest, in initiating disagreements, in choosing harsh words or inflicting pain come from the same source – original sin. The Catechism teaches that original sin “is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the dominion of death; and inclined to sin” (CCC 405). We can say then that original sin is the “reverse side of the Gospel” (CCC 389). However, there is reason for hope of deliverance from this state – Jesus our Savior who is born to us (Luke 2:10-14; Isaiah 9:6).
As we hear from Jeremiah, God promised he would send a Messiah. He would send a redeemer, a liberator, someone to put it all back together again, and that was the hope held out by Israel’s prophets. God’s promise was fulfilled in Jesus.
Of all the things that God could bestow upon us, his Son is the perfect gift. In Jesus, God gives us so much more than we could have hoped for. Jesus is the eternal “Word became flesh” – Christ from outside our history – yet, he “made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).
First, Jesus lived in the world. Born into a family and a community of faith, he was raised to fulfill the mission for which he was sent. Now, Jesus lives in the Church, his body on earth, and within each one of us who have been reborn in him in baptism. It is the season of Advent that invites us to mediate on this great mystery, that God came down from heaven to you and me – personally. In everything we do then, we reach forward to meet him in gratitude and joy. Jesus, God made man, has brought you salvation!
The season of Advent is a time to make more room in our lives for Jesus. This year is very special in that Pope Francis has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy. During this Advent, then, we are invited to seek out the merciful love of Jesus which can heal all that is broken within us. With God’s mercy, we can let go of all our fears and anxieties, of all the baggage that weighs us down, of the pain of sin – we can let go of all in our lives that blocks the living presence of healing love in Christ. And we are called to be bearers of the message the Prince of Peace brings to the world.
This year in our annual Advent initiative, Find the Perfect Gift, we want to open the door of mercy and explore how we need mercy, how we receive mercy, and how we share mercy. Please visit mercy.adw.org to find resources for reflection, opportunities for worship and receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, and musical and service events that help us receive and share the saving love and compassion of Jesus Christ.
Find the Perfect Gift is an opportunity to invite family members, and friends to encounter anew the merciful love of the Lord. Who in your life needs to learn or be reminded that everything in the world has changed because of the birth of this little Child in Bethlehem? This Christmas, give them the perfect gift – Jesus Christ, who “by his words, his actions and his entire person reveals the mercy of God” (Misericodiae Vultus, 1).