Rejoice! Rejoice! Jesus Is Born, and All Creation Sings!
“O” Antiphon: “O Messiah, Promised One of the Jews, you have given us the mysteries of God and taught us the way of your Kingdom. When someone knocks you give to them freely and without reservation. Come now and free those who are held captive by darkness.”
Advent leads to the hope of Christmas for all believers. This hope is manifested in a multitude of prayerful ways, such as petitioning Mary under her title of “Our Mother of Perpetual Help.”
On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, many Christian communities at worship, mostly online right now, will hear the story of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary when she was but a young peasant girl. The angel tells her she was called by God to be the mother of Jesus. Mary replies that she is open to welcoming this child; open to walking the hard path of discipleship that is still unknown to her; open to believing that the promises of her God will be fulfilled.
In Pope Francis’s new encyclical on social friendship and dialogue, “Fratelli Tutti” or “On Fraternity and Social Friendship,” he speaks of the need for an open heart, explaining that such a heart is key for building peace in our world to free those who live in darkness. Mary’s response to the angel in the passage presented in Luke’s Gospel demonstrates the kind of openness that Pope Francis speaks of and that God desires of us. Mary’s yes to God enables the light that Christ brings to our darkness, as described in the “O” Antiphon for Dec. 21.
Where will an open heart take us? Fixing a broken relationship? Giving to a neighbor in need? Asking Congress to approve funds for out-of-work employees, asking Customs Enforcement to reunite children with parents at the border or ensuring that DACA students can stay in America? Whom can we help to lift the darkness of their lives? The list of needs is endless. The “O” Antiphon for Dec. 21 reminds us that we have been given the mysteries of God through the people we meet. It is our task to listen and to do what we can to lift the darkness and to be grateful for the ways they lift ours.
Meet John, a homeless man living in a shelter: “Woke up today, and the shoes were gone. Somebody stole my shoes. So I found my knife and went looking. Walking up and down the dining hall. In the old days nobody would take em’ – cause they know I’d get ‘em before they could ever put ‘em on. Didn’t care. That’s how it was this morning. It’s one thing to give up drinking. It’s another thing when they take your shoes. I’m swearing and getting madder. My neighbor Jim says ‘the Bible says if they take your shoes, give ’em your socks.’ Folded up my knife. Walked barefoot to the service center this mornin’– got me some more shoes – but ain’t it hard to live this stuff out!’” (Adapted from a story as told by Janet Wolf in “A Guide To Discernment,” Upper Room Books.)
Yes, John, it is hard to live this stuff out. We pray for open hearts and enough shoes to go around.
Our hearts endlessly yearn for God. Our hearts are open to love, to peace, to unity and to the coming of God in our time. “I Am the Way,” Loretto’s Constitutions, #33, reads, “We strive to bring the healing Spirit of God into our world.”
May this Christmas be a time for healing and wholeness for all. Loretto wishes you and yours a blessed and peace-filled Christmas.