Merry Christmas: A Reflection on Mercy in the World

christmasAs I reflect on the celebration of the Birth of Christ, I cannot help how we continue to bring to life his presence by our very presence in this world.  This year with the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we also commemorate the 50th year of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. In the Misericordiae Vultus, the Papal decree calling of the Jubilee celebration, Pope Francis recalls the significance for the connection of this year to the council.

  1. I have chosen the date of 8 December because of its rich meaning in the recent history of the Church. In fact, I will open the Holy Door on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Church feels a great need to keep this event alive. With the Council, the Church entered a new phase of her history. The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The walls which for too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way. It was a new phase of the same evangelization that had existed from the beginning. It was a fresh undertaking for all Christians to bear witness to their faith with greater enthusiasm and conviction. The Church sensed a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world.

    We recall the poignant words of Saint John XXIII when, opening the Council, he indicated the path to follow: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity… The Catholic Church, as she holds high the torch of Catholic truth at this Ecumenical Council, wants to show herself a loving mother to all; patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness toward her separated children”.[2] Blessed Paul VI spoke in a similar vein at the closing of the Council: “We prefer to point out how charity has been the principal religious feature of this Council… the old story of the Good Samaritan has been the model of the spirituality of the Council… a wave of affection and admiration flowed from the Council over the modern world of humanity. Errors were condemned, indeed, because charity demanded this no less than did truth, but for individuals themselves there was only admonition, respect and love. Instead of depressing diagnoses, encouraging remedies; instead of direful predictions, messages of trust issued from the Council to the present-day world. The modern world’s values were not only respected but honoured, its efforts approved, its aspirations purified and blessed… Another point we must stress is this: all this rich teaching is channelled in one direction, the service of mankind, of every condition, in every weakness and need”.[3]With these sentiments of gratitude for everything the Church has received, and with a sense of responsibility for the task that lies ahead, we shall cross the threshold of the Holy Door fully confident that the strength of the Risen Lord, who constantly supports us on our pilgrim way, will sustain us. May the Holy Spirit, who guides the steps of believers in cooperating with the work of salvation wrought by Christ, lead the way and support the People of God so that they may contemplate the face of mercy.[4]

  2. 5. The Jubilee year will close with the liturgical Solemnity of Christ the King on 20 November 2016. On that day, as we seal the Holy Door, we shall be filled, above all, with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity for having granted us an extraordinary time of grace. We will entrust the life of the Church, all humanity, and the entire cosmos to the Lordship of Christ, asking him to pour out his mercy upon us like the morning dew, so that everyone may work together to build a brighter future. How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!

For me, this celebration of Christmas calls for a reorientation, a new experience of the incarnation, of communion and of sacramentality.  This reorientation is not only for Christmas, but also for the ongoing reality of my Christian journey.

As we reflect on the gift of the incarnation of the Word Made Flesh, of the God-Man, Emmanuel, God-with-Us and with the connection to the Second Vatican Council and the Year of Mercy, I see a need for at least four new imperatives for my work as a disciple.

  1. The orientation of all pastoral activity focuses outwardly in the mission of the world toward a greater communion.
  2. Remembering that We are the Church, but not the whole Church. We need each other’s experiences to embrace the richness that the incarnation reminds us of in each other.
  3. That through our work and life, the Church becomes so vital to society and the fabric of the culture that we can re-emerge as native to it and truly transform it in light of the Gospel.
  4. As Church, we must continue to address the world around us and the neighborhoods in which we live and move and have our being to be of service to them and for the total human development of the people in light of the person of Jesus.

May you have a Blessed Merry Christmas!

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