We pray in the dark during these Advent days while we wait for the coming of the Light, of love enfleshed.
The darkness is everywhere and impacts each of us. We encounter pain and violent words, messages and behavior when we pay attention to the news, when we share in our neighbor’s pain, when we tune into the tension and the fear that is intensely plaguing humanity. Even the earth itself seems to be mourning our destructiveness and greed. Our hearts ache with sadness and anger as shootings, terrorism, and hate-mongering become more frequent.
In the darkness of discouragement, temptation comes quick. Maybe I shouldn’t bother or What difference does it make if I am charitable? or Why should I help them if I can’t even get my own life together? or How can we trust anyone!? Ugly attitudes of apathy and doubt can creep in and corrode at our faith and hope. Just like everyone else, we are capable of turning away from love and succumbing to fear and hate.
It is messy and challenging, but by the grace of God, we will not give into temptation. We will resist all darkness by offering compassionate alternatives in the face of fear and pain. The words of Ephesians 5 shall be our marching song as we rise up and rally as children of light:
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light,for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them,for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret;but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” –Ephesians 5:8-14
Yes, there are many ways that we can resist this darkness and unite as children of the light. Especially now that the Jubilee Year of Mercy has begun, we will act as instruments of forgiveness and mercy.
Pope Francis has invited us all to imitate God, as mercy is an action, an attitude that the world desperately needs from us all now. “Mercy-ing calls us to forgive the unforgivable, to look tenderly upon the unappealing and the troublesome, to be compassionate to the ungrateful. It demands that we give a full measure, packed down and flowing over, and to empty our granaries again and again for those who cannot hope to repay us. It asks us to open our hands and hearts, not because we expect mercy in return, but because who we yearn to become could not—did not—do anything less for us.” Although the word mercy-ing is made up by Pope Francis, this aspect of our faith goes all the way back to the days of Christ.
There are many ways that we can resist the darkness and get active mercy-ing during this Advent time.
Here are just a few examples of what others are doing. No one of us can do it all, so when one of us is mercy-ing then we all are:
Today, on Human Rights Day, and on other days we rally throughout the world. (Human Rights Day marks the anniversary of the international adoption of Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
We recommit ourselves to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We prayerfully say “yes” to the Gospel mission of loving our neighbors and enemies.
We resist racism and xenophobia by opening our hearts, our Churches, our homes to refugees and immigrants.
We pray for an end of all forms of torture and violence and speak out on behalf of the victims.
We refuse to participate in the consumeristic, materialistic side of holiday celebrations and gear up for the Billion People March on December 19th.
We acknowledge the fact that we are creatures in need of God’s mercy, and ask God and others for forgiveness.
We willingly forgive those who have hurt us and we do simple acts of reconciliation, like sending notes of reconciliation and peace to rebuild relationships.
We light candles on our Advent wreaths and sing songs of joyful anticipation.
Yes, indeed, it’s amazing how the light shall come! Thanks be to God, in all of these acts of mercy-ing, our faith burns bright and we proclaim that Christ is our Light! Amen!