Dear sisters and brothers,
Advent marks the start of a new Church year. As Advent begins, we cross a threshold into the Year of Mercy which has been initiated by Pope Francis. On this First Sunday of Advent, we will listen to the Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Mark Coleridge. Below is an edited version, but the full version is also available for you to take home and read:
Journeys are very physical things, as I learn each time I take a long flight. The time of Advent prepares for a birth – and birth is a very physical journey of another kind. According to Scripture, mercy is also a very physical thing. The Latin for mercy is misericordia which means a compassionate heart. But the Bible sees it more physically: for Scripture, the source of mercy is the entrails, even the womb.
The Bible sees mercy as like the love a mother has for her child. A mother loves her child unconditionally. She sees the child just as she or he is. A mother sees all that’s weak or wrong in her child, but she sees much more. Whatever is weak or wrong is surpassed infinitely by the mother’s love for her child, the one she bore in her womb. It’s the same with God and us. God sees us just as we are – weak and wounded, all of us. God sees our sinfulness far more clearly and comprehensively than we ever do. But God sees more – and because he sees more, God is infinitely merciful, like a mother.
Mercy is a vision of possibility. It sees that much more is possible. In that sense, mercy is the mother of hope. The time of Advent, then, prepares not just for the birth of a child who is God-with-us. It also prepares for the birth of mercy which is also the birth of hope. As we journey together, the Church becomes a womb. If the Church is a mother, then the Church is also a womb – bringing forth Jesus in the world and therefore giving birth to mercy and hope.
A mother never ceases to accompany the child she conceives and bears in her womb. Mary gives birth to Jesus whom she has borne in her womb; and she stands by the Cross as He dies, just as she shares the joy of His Resurrection. This is the kind of accompaniment mother Church has to offer to all her children, not just some, not just those who are good. The only question is how. That’s where discernment is crucial.
If we’re all talk and no action, then we may feel pangs – but they’ll be the pangs of death not the pangs of birth. Advent is about the pangs of birth, which are as physical as the Incarnation when the Word took flesh. The real God is very physical. My hope is that this Advent and our journey through the Year of Mercy will be just as physical, just as real, as we travel the road together.
+ Mark Coleridge
|Jun 15, 2016
|1st Sunday of Advent – 29 November 2015