On December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Jubilee of Mercy begins. It is fitting that, within the first month of this Jubilee, we are reminded of the gift of the Christ-child born into a family. The presence of Christ in the world reveals God’s abundant, merciful love. Through the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation His presence, love, and mercy remain and are always available to us. As the celebration of the Christmas season unfolds the opportunity to extend mercy to others starts at home.
While so many look forward to being at home for Christmas the realities of family life can often sneak through during time spent together. Deflated expectations, selfishness, and the projections of our wants on others may cloud what the gift of presence is all about. The often-sought perfect Christmas morning is always intertwined with the realities of daily living. The simplicity of mercy, however, remains a gift of presence that all of us need to practice so that we may become better aware of each others’ needs and hurts. The real gift is exchanged when we are truly present to one another.
While announcing the Jubilee of Mercy in the bull of indiction, Misericordiae Vultus, the Holy Father writes, “It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the fact of poverty.” The hope is to spend this year considering the needs and even the wounds of others. It will often mean giving up what we want to do to tend to those close to us or even to those who are unfamiliar to us. It will require opening our hearts to prayer and opening our eyes to truly see those in need.
Such attentiveness is found in the spiritual practices of the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy. The corporeal works of mercy call us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. The spiritual works of mercy encourage us to be watchful as we counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, and admonish the sinner; to have a conciliatory spirit as we comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses willingly, and bear wrongs patiently; and finally to pray for the living and the dead. These works of mercy are the gifts we are called to share in both the celebrations and the challenges of family life. Extending mercy at home forms us so that we may do the same for others wherever we are called to serve.
The gift of the presence of Christ is continually revealed. While it is tempting to want to have things go our way, a little mercy makes a world of difference for those we are called to accompany. That accompaniment in turn becomes a gift to us as we recognize Christ in them. Unwrapping Christmas gifts certainly brings joy on Christmas morning. Learning how to share those gifts and the gifts given to us by God the Father remind us of the hope we have in Christ whose mercy endures forever.
Question for Reflection:
As the Jubilee of Mercy begins what are one or two works of mercy that you could start praying about in order to bring about mercy with those you deal with on a daily basis?