Christmas is near but most of us have probably not even been able to notice that “Advent is the most peaceful time of the year”. This passing year has been more than busy. We have installed a new organ in our church and the construction work has caused a lot of dust and noise and periods when the church was not open. Now it is almost completed. The organ sounds beautiful and the new entrance opens up the church and makes it lighter and more welcoming. All this cost us, however, a lot of work and patience so that we may feel tired and under pressure now, before Christmas. Still, it is in fact important that we now find time for God and let God’s mercy work in us.
On the 8th of December, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Holy Year of Mercy began. In Rome the Holy Father opened the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Holy Door has also been opened at our church, at St. Paul’s. We go in through this Holy Door to be reminded that God is to be found and that we may seek His Grace. God is merciful and we hope that as many as possible in the Church and in our parish shall be able to meet God’s mercy.
God does not give us up even when we sin, even when we choose to follow our own ways rather than God’s way. He sent his Son who became Man, who suffered, died and was resurrected for us, to redeem us from the power of sin and death. This was His plan of mercy which he announced already after the fall of man in the garden of Eden. He sent us the Holy Spirit who established the Church, which grants people God’s grace and mercy through proclamation of the Gospel and through the sacraments.
We meet God’s mercy in a special way in the sacrament of penance. We may come to God with our sins and with everything which troubles us, and we may place that before Him. And doing so we do not find condemnation but forgiveness. We are reconciled with God and with the Church. And if God can forgive us, then perhaps also we can forgive ourselves, and forgive each other. However, the wounds which sin has left are still there and hurt us. Forgiveness is the necessary condition for the healing process. That is why Jesus requests that we forgive others and that is why we have to reach the point when we can also forgive ourselves. God has no difficulty in forgiving us because He is merciful and full of grace. It is us, people, who find it difficult to forgive and to forget. We have to try to learn from God to be merciful. Mercy forgives, and forgiveness is the condition to be able to forget – to be able to put things behind us.
The Christmas message lets us meet God’s mercy in a very concrete way. The child in the manger shows God’s mercy to us. The Christmas message tells the shepherds, the three kings, and all of us that we are not alone in the world. We have One who shares our joys and our sorrows, who supports us and helps us when we feel that we fail, and who lifts us when we fall, who accepts us and forgives us when we have sinned, He “who is with us to the end of days.” Yes, God’s Son has come down from heaven and become one of us, and taking on our flesh, has brought us reconciliation. He calls us through the sacraments of the Church to let ourselves be reconciled. He lets us meet His mercy and he influences and reshapes us through it so that we can be messengers of his mercy to the world and cry “Let yourselves be reconciled with God”.
May God’s mercy touch your hearts through the child in the manger, God, who became man, God our Saviour.
I wish you a happy and blessed Christmas
Parish priest Dom Alois