Advent devotion: Mercy

News | December 25, 2016

A few weeks ago, I was at a bookstore with a friend. On a bottom shelf, I noticed a book about Pope Francis, “The Name of God is Mercy.”

I pulled it out and opened it up.

“Yes, I believe that this a time for mercy,” he says in the opening pages. “The Church is showing her maternal side, her motherly face, to a humanity that is wounded. She does not wait for the wounded to knock on her doors, she looks for them on the streets, she gathers them in, she embraces them, she takes care of them, she makes them feel loved.”

Today, we celebrate Mary, Joseph, and the birth of a baby whose life was and is and will always be mercy – at a time when it seems like this precious world of ours needs mercy the most.

Pain and destruction and suffering is happening, both near and far. Wars. Natural disasters. Abuse. Poverty. Death.

But Jesus, this beautiful Jesus, shows us the way to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly, words written so many, many years ago.

Maybe it’s going to a doctor’s appointment with a friend, or dreaming about a bright future with a refugee family. Perhaps it’s caring for parents whose child died or a child whose parent died, or working on a construction project so that another has a warm and safe place to live. It could be seeking to understand a person who thinks differently or experiences the world differently, providing a meal for families living in a shelter, or speaking up against injustice or violence. Or, it could be granting ourselves abiding kindness, freeing ourselves from shame.

Jesus gives us the way – that each of us must look upon ourselves and others with mercy, that we must actively go out into this world to tenderly and fiercely embrace, take care of, and help those who are hurting or scared, hungry or tired.

Mercy, Pope Francis says, is “like the sky. We look at the sky, there are so many stars, but when the sun rises in the morning, all that light drowns out the stars. That is what God’s mercy is like: a great light filled with love and tenderness because God forgives not with a decree but with a caress.”

It’s that mercy, that hope, that is Christmas.

Ann McGlynn is the director of communication at St. Paul.

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