Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Advent and the Year of Mercy

In the holiday spirit I thought I would post a blog about what I truly believe the holidays are about, and conveniently it also works to post about the celebration of the Year of Mercy.  Pope Francis celebrated the start of the Year of Mercy yesterday, a perfect platform for the holidays to discuss what Christmas is really about.  Advent is a time of renewal and preparation; it is a time for growth, but when you combine it with the Year of Mercy it truly amplifies the opportunity for growth.  So what is mercy all about and why should we care?  Mercy is more than forgiveness and thankfulness, it is putting grace into action.  So what are some things that we can all do in this season of advent to help perpetuate mercy?

As a child growing up I remember the importance of going to the sacrament of reconciliation during advent.  This was part of the process of getting ready for the coming of Christ at Christmas, but I would challenge you to go one step further.  Have we asked for forgiveness from those we have wronged?  Have we asked for forgiveness for the pain we have caused others?  Have we given forgiveness to those who have wronged us, even though they have never asked for forgiveness?  It is a very humbling experience to go to those that you have wronged and ask for forgiveness, especially when you know you don’t deserve it, but it is also completely liberating.  Even if we never receive forgiveness from those we have caused pain, just the action of coming to them and asking for forgiveness alone can free us from the suffering that comes with sin.  Mercy takes forgiveness one step beyond the confessional.  How often we hear stories of people who have been called to forgive those who have murdered, raped, threatened, assaulted, or harassed?  Somehow these special people find strength in the vulnerability of forgiveness to do the unthinkable, to forgive those that don’t deserve forgiveness.  These inspirational people go on to live life liberated from that suffering.  Are there people in your life that you need to forgive that don’t deserve forgiveness?  Who are we to decide who deserves forgiveness and who doesn’t?  This is where real mercy comes into play, forgive those who don’t deserve it, love those who are unlovable, be Christ in our world.

Perhaps forgiveness at this level is too big of a step, then start small.  Donate money, toys, food or clothes to a local charity to help them during this holiday rush.  How about taking the time to visit with an elderly neighbor that doesn’t have a family during the holidays to visit them?  Have you taken some time to visit with coworkers or employees outside of work, and shown them appreciation for all that they do?   Have you considered making a meal for a family that just welcomed a new baby?  I’m sure a little bit of relief would be gladly appreciated, or even a free night of babysitting so friends can have a special date night.  Have you taken the time to be kind and show appreciation to your spouse and children?  When was the last time you talked to a good friend and just listened to them talk about their joys and stresses?  What about the family member that lives far from home, when was the last time you talked to them?  During the busyness of the holidays, I really encourage you to stop and take a little inventory.  Where can we show mercy to others, to be kind, to be love?  Where can you make life better for someone else, because it is in giving of ourselves that we become truly blessed!  Happy Advent to everyone!

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