As Pope Francis opened the year of mercy, it is a time to mark our conscious and concerted effort to be a continual witness of God’s mercy in the world. This begins, as he notes, for each of us with our daily conversion of heart, a turning towards Christ and an acceptance of the love and mercy that is available for all. We are to then share and radiate this mercy that we have been given to all those we encounter. Why wait? Today is the day..
This Advent season, I find myself disenchanted with the stores, and the constant promotion of items to be bought in order to win smiles and love. Some years are like that we say to ourselves, and yet I know that there is something much profound at work. Searching, I recognize that while society hasn’t necessarily changed, I have.
The other day, I took a moment with a local homeless man just to talk. As he stood there, leaning uncomfortably against my church, I could not pass him by. That is, without sharing a smile and asking him how he was doing. Even from a distance, I noticed that the cold weather had left his skin and lips weathered, and reddened. I suddenly realized that I had come prepared. For, inside my car were a new pair of tube socks with lotion, wipes, chap stick, toothbrush and toothpaste enclosed. Gladly, but a bit surprised, he accepted the gift.
This morning on my way to take my son to school again I saw him, with a huge smile on his face walking with a couple of other men. What a gift he had given me to see him enjoying a bit of happiness and company. The homeless life can be so very isolating, for mental illness and addictions have often served to distance them from relationships and even recognition. In our hurry and perhaps even fearful, we are accustomed to look straight ahead towards our destination.
Where are our eyes focused this Advent? Upwards toward heaven, forward in completing the day’s events, or all around seeking God in everything? Are we, as Mother Teresa observed, “seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor”?  Times have been difficult in my suburban community, and many more families are either finding themselves cutting back, overextended, or without. Yet, while we can’t do or be everything to everyone we can greet, love, and support one another in whatever way we can. Today, an invitation was extended for more volunteers at our parish food pantry in order to serve more people, and provide rest for regular helpers. Maybe an hour this Advent season is a gift you too can give.
How are our hearts this Advent? If we are serious about preparing for Christ’s coming, it’s time now to think about the condition of our hearts. Are we hardened by our own circumstances, and the pitfalls we have found ourselves in? Where are my thoughts this Advent? Trusting the path and journey we are on isn’t easy to do alone, for the temptation is to seek control.
Prayer and the Eucharist– are for me the most transforming corrections for my squinted vision, stiffening heart, and human tendencies to control my world. In quiet prayer, I can silence the noise and hear Jesus’ voice once again. All my pretences fall away, as I stand like a child at his feet. Feeling his embrace, my heart melts and I long to stay with him. His smile reminds me who and whose I am. Created and loved I am asked to see as he does. His daughter, I am called to be ever close to him. This intimacy of the Eucharist draws me not inward but outward.
I am called to be more than I could have ever imagined, and all that you know I can be. “Let faith arise..open my eyes!”