There is a natural connection between the season of Advent and the mercy of God. During Advent we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. In him, we experience the mercy of God incarnate. The mercy of God is revealed in his Son who became one of us in order to fully experience what we experience, the life within an extended family; the dignity of human labour; the sense of rejection and being misunderstood; the pain of suffering during his passion; the sense of desolation as he cries out My God why have you deserted me; the loneliness of death. It is in this that we see the full depth and breadth of God’s Mercy.
“At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives. For this reason I have proclaimed an ‘Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy’ as a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.” (Misericordiae Vultus, no. 3)
These words are from the Bull of Pope Francis announcing the Year of Mercy which starts on 8th December 2015. He calls us to be more aware of and to respond to the mercy which God has bestowed upon and that to accomplish this we need to take time to reflect, to look inside ourselves. Advent is an ideal time to do this as we prepare to celebrate the incarnation of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus; that ultimate sign of mercy which becomes so clear as he goes to the cross for our sakes.
So the question is: ‘How do we go about respond to this mercy? As a beginning we need to acknowledge there is a problem: we cannot see – how often do we look at something and see what is in front of us but totally miss the true significance of what we are seeing. This is often the case when we fail to see the image of God in our neighbour; we cannot hear – we hear the words but filter them so that we do not listen and grasp the true meaning of what is being said to us. Often we are so busy with our own concerns and the everyday noise of the world that we cannot hear what God is trying to say to us; we cannot speak – we may be very articulate about our favourite topics or our work or politics are culture but when it comes to our faith, to what we believe we have trouble finding the words to express it; we do not know how to walk the paths of God – it is so easy to in our spiritual lives to behave as we do in a supermarket. We wander through and pick up the things that attract us, that are easy, that do not challenge us and leave the rest. We need to see, to hear, to speak, to walk with God but we cannot do these alone. In short we need God’s mercy. And what better time to say yes to that mercy than during this season of Advent.