Weeks of Mercy
There’s a family expectancy in the air about Christmas, people looking forward to the celebration. Even if we dread bits of Christmas, and many do, we know that there is something very good about it. We look forward to it, as we look forward to the visit of someone we love, or a holiday afterwards, or the break from work.
The people at Jesus’ time were like that – looking forward to the ‘one who is to come’. It would all take time, and the last of the messengers was John the Baptist. His mother would await his birth with huge expectation.
He preached forgiveness. This is one of the special gifts of God, and one of the big celebrations of Advent. We are a forgiven people, and we welcome the forgiveness of God in our repentance. This means we are firstly grateful for forgiveness, that we do not have to carry forever the burden of sin, meanness and our faults and failings. God covers them over in mercy. The second step of welcoming forgiveness is to try to do better in life – to move on from this sinfulness and meanness to a life of care, compassion, love and joy. It is a call and a challenge to forgive others.
Advent is not complete without some admission of sin and our need for mercy. The parish celebrations of the sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation) in common or individually is a step which makes our celebration of Christmas complete.
Donal Neary SJ