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Season of Advent, Year of Mercy

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

 Kyrie Eleison! Lord, Have Mercy!

We have endured news of so much violence and hate in recent weeks, near and far, with the presence of terrorism lurking here on the home-front. All this is happening as we Catholics experience our annual encounter with the Church’s Season of Advent, featuring its own built-in sense of the apocalyptic.

We’re living in the seasonal “hinge” of the Church’s liturgical calendar, from which we seek to glean some sense of meaning as we move from pondering the second—and final­—coming of Jesus Christ, King and Lord of the Universe, toward pondering His first coming to us as a babe in a Bethlehem manger.

How do we do that? How can we move our hearts properly through the end-of-the-world imagery of the Last Judgment, full of finality, full of fire and thunder, toward some kind of resolution that prepares our hearts for a fitting celebration of Christ’s birth? Especially when so many of us are almost desperately trying to come to terms with the very immediate and real culture of death and violence that continually swirls around us?

Providentially, the Church, our Mother and Teacher, has given us the salve that may well help us to heal our own woundedness during this time of uncertainty tinged with just a dash of expectation and hope—a hope that is truly born in Bethlehem.

We have been given a Jubilee Year of Mercy, just when we seem to need it most. Pope Francis tells us:

“Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought of how the Church may render more clear her mission to be a witness to mercy; and we have to make this journey. It is a journey which begins with spiritual conversion. Therefore, I have decided to announce an Extraordinary Jubilee which has at its center the mercy of God. It will be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live in the light of the word of the Lord: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (cf. Lk 6:36).”

Year of Mercy Banner

So it is that this year, in particular, a year fraught with the chaos of evil and violence, we each are being called to be “a witness to mercy” and to make this witness our conscious journey for the next year—not just merely in this Advent Season. Yet, our Advent preparation is truly the necessary first step toward our being witnesses of mercy—our Advent journey toward Christmas is bound up in our larger and more challenging path of mercy and forgiveness. Pope Francis himself says of the path ahead:

“I am confident that the whole Church, which is in such need of mercy for we are sinners, will be able to find in this Jubilee the joy of rediscovering and rendering fruitful God’s mercy, with which we are all called to give comfort to every man and every woman of our time. Do not forget that God forgives all, and God forgives always. Let us never tire of asking forgiveness. Let us henceforth entrust this Year to the Mother of Mercy, that she turn her gaze upon us and watch over our journey: our penitential journey, our year-long journey with an open heart, to receive the indulgence of God, to receive the mercy of God.”

Our Holy Father’s words joyfully bring us back full-circle to our experience of Advent even in the midst of worldly chaos. We can contemplate in our heart the meaning of God’s infinite love for us, just as our “Mother of Mercy,” the Blessed Virgin Mary, did. Imagine Mary’s steadfast witness to mercy from those first dizzying moments of the Annunciation through everything leading up to the incredible moment when she would become the first to see, in her own newborn Son, the “living face of the Father’s mercy.”

During this Advent Season—and all through the Jubilee Year of Mercy ahead—let’s ask our Mother of Mercy for guidance and strength to stand as true witnesses to the incomparable and sublime mercy of God. The surest way to vanquish both the anxiety in our own hearts and to rest easy even in the face of great evil is to keep our eyes fixed on that Face of the Father’s Mercy, first revealed to us as a little baby born in a stable.

Prepare your hearts—come quickly, Lord Jesus!