As excitement begins to build leading up to Christmas, it is appropriate and healthy to pause for a few reasons.
Happy New Year! Advent marks the beginning of our liturgical year. The Church fittingly places a season filled with waiting, expecting, and hoping at the start of a new year. This serves as a reminder that our lives are but a pro-longed period of waiting before we meet our benevolent, magnanimous, and loving Creator. And during the hustle and bustle of what has become an uncomfortably hectic season, it is critical that we all take a moment to reflect on where we are going. Pope Francis promises: "What other reward can God give to those who seek him, if not to let himself be found?" (The Light of Faith, #35).
And where did God declare that he is hiding? God lowers himself into a little child. The Christ-Child is perhaps the most provocative yet encouraging image we can look at this season. God so loved the world that he made Himself a child so we can hold Him. And when any of us holds a child, the world just seems to stop. For this reason, Bishop Peter Libasci has asked that the Christ-child be displayed in every home at the beginning of Advent. He writes, "What is being asked is that during the Advent season, we take the INFANT as our centerpiece, remembering that He came as one of us. When an infant is in the house, everyone must be conscious of that presence and speak more softly, be more attentive, welcome family and visitors, exercise patience, accept inconvenience—even in the extreme, for the sake of the fragile life entrusted to our care."
This descent of God is an irrefutably merciful act that can only be met with a merciful response. How do we respond with mercy? Well, Pope Francis has given us a whole year to reflect on that question. December 8th marks the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, called for because our world is in dire need of mercy. Perhaps the most profound truth of authentic love is that it cannot be rejected, but if this love is never truly encountered, it must be made manifest through concrete acts. For Catholics, we refer to these acts as the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. But why begin on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception?
"Salvation becomes visible for the first time in the Immaculate Conception as God spares Mary the stain of Original Sin. She is freely given the gift of sinlessness so that she can be the beacon to draw sinners to her Son. It is no mistaken piety that refers to her as the Mother of Mercy, because who else but Mercy himself is born of her? The Immaculate Conception's reconception is a simple truth: it is not within ourselves to save ourselves" (Fr. James Sullivan, December Magnificat).
May all our families hold this treasure of mercy in our hands, homes, and hearts, thus radiating His love to a good but broken world that so desperately seeks the truth of salvation.
Yours Truly In Christ,