Brothers and companions:
Let us begin Advent with the longing to be brothers and companions. We are scattered, touched with destruction and despair, distrust and disaffection; needy of brothers and companions; and of the wisdom of knowing ourselves companions and brothers for others. It is suggested by Psalm 121. “For the sake of my brothers and friends I say, ‘Peace be with you… I pray for your good.’” [Ps. 122]
Pope Francis’ surprising letter, with which the Jubilee of Mercy closes, guides us about Advent:
1. In this time of grace, let us learn to be brothers and fellow-men who guard against indecent forms of poverty and who practice solidarity. Thus says the Pope: “Being unemployed or not receiving a sufficient salary; not being able to have a home or a land in which to live; experiencing discrimination on account of one’s faith, race or social status: these are just a few examples of many situations that attack the dignity of the person. In the face of such attacks, Christian mercy responds above all with vigilance and solidarity.”
2. Let us also learn to be brothers and companions, who help restore the dignity of people, especially children. As the Pope puts it: “Let us think only about the many children who suffer from forms of violence that rob them of the joy of life. I keep thinking of their sorrowful and bewildered faces. They are pleading for our help to be set free from the slavery of the contemporary world.”
3. Let us be brothers and companions who hope and bring about a loving and explicit mobilization:
“The social character of mercy demands that we not simply stand by and do nothing. It requires us to banish indifference and hypocrisy … May the Holy Spirit help us to contribute actively and selflessly to making justice and a dignified life not simply clichés but a concrete commitment of those who seek to bear witness to the presence of God’s Kingdom.” The Pope always goes ahead of us, and it seems incredible, with his words and gestures. In him the Holy Spirit offers us such lively words and such merciful gestures that, if we give him serene attention, we will receive enough strength to disengage ourselves and make us overflow with the mercy that makes the pilgrimage of the disciples of Christ good and holy.
Let us shape the culture of the productive and fraternal land, which feeds the children of God generously, brothers and companions. Let us prepare the fields and craft the instruments necessary to usher in peace and transform the valleys devastated by war into fertile lands that nourish the joy of all. Isaiah 2 speaks again. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.”
Come, brothers and companions,
“Let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
May this be an Advent of cleansing and merciful light, that may throb and transform, clean and heal, and make us brothers and companions, as St. Paul asks us, in Romans 13. “L
et us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy.” Let us enter into an Advent of personal and community purification. Not to generate bad conscience and guilt, but to responsibly mend human dignity, removing from it what thwarts it.
Let us have the same sentiments as Christ Jesus. Let us be like Him, a mirror of Him, so that this world may be of brothers and companions who love, respect, and support each other in solidarity. “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
He is present. Always. You and I, brother and companion, are lost, but called. Can we listen? Just by doing it. Just by coming within his sight and being silent and waiting patiently in the silence, a spirit of vigilance and Communion will be reborn in us. It is suggested to us by Matthew 24:
“Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.”
That is why, as Christians, we must look forward to the Lord’s coming as brothers and companions: “
So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Prepared with the works of mercy, as the Pope suggests: “The works of mercy affect a person’s entire life. For this reason, we can set in motion a real cultural revolution, beginning with simple gestures capable of reaching body and spirit, people’s very lives.”
When I was a child, I would ring and ring the two church bells in my town, doing so with the energy and joy of a childhood that wastes positive energies without having any predetermined objective. Something mysterious and wonderful led me to do good works. As a child in my father’s arms, I let myself be carried. And I humbly believe that this is what the Father asks of us in this Advent: Let us ring to exhaustion the bells of our lives, words and gestures of mercy, that call us to be brothers and companions. And let us ring with no other thoughts and feelings than those of Christ Jesus, until we make the day of Communion dawn in our Church, and with it, the day of peace and justice for all the companions and brothers of our people.
If we were to ask Mary of Nazareth what the Incarnation was like, perhaps she would tell us that it was an experience...