One wonderful gift that God gives us is the virtue of hope. Will the acceptance of this gift be different this year because of recent and ongoing tragedies?
We were all saddened and discouraged by the killing of innocent people in Paris, France, and San Bernardino, California. These were added to other mass killings and the ongoing violence in Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria. Millions of refugees are seeking new homes. We are far from Isaiah’s vision of peace and harmony that the Messiah would bring: the lamb being the guest of the wolf, the calf and the young lion browsing together, the baby playing by the cobra’s den. We pray for all the victims and that the hearts of terrorists will be changed. We support those working for peace, but we don’t lose hope.
Hope is a gift from God. Our trust is in him. Christ has already become human and walks and suffers with us. We’ve received the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation. All during Advent, we’ve been praying for Jesus to come more fully into our lives: “Come, Lord Jesus!” We pray with fellow believers: “Open our hearts in welcome. Remove the things that hinder us from receiving him with joy.” The liturgy this month has strengthened my hope.
The Power of Mercy
We had two feasts of Mary. On December 8, we celebrated that she was conceived without sin. She was never in any way tainted by evil. Her wholehearted trust in God and a life of love and service give me hope. We pray to her as the patroness of our country.
On December 12, we relived Mary’s appearing to Juan Diego. She was dressed as an Aztec princess and had Indian features. She shared her son’s message that God embraces all nations and cultures. That message of hope and love touches all of us in the Americas. Within six years of her apparition, some estimate that nine million Aztecs were baptized. That gives me hope.
On December 8, Pope Francis opened up new vistas for us by declaring the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. His words bolster my hope. Consider these powerful statements:
+ “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy…. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth.”
+ “The Father of Mercy sent his only Son into the world, born of the Virgin Mary, to reveal his love for us in a definitive way.”
+ “Mercy is the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”
+ “Mercy instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.”
And I see so much goodness in the world, especially as we approach Christmas. So many reach out to the needy and share the love and joy of Christ. My heart is hopeful! I smile with thanks and ask Mary’s help in accepting God’s gifts of love and especially hope in this time of turmoil.
“Come, Lord Jesus!”
Dear Friar Jim: I read your reflection and realized, once again, how I should just let the worries of this world go and place all my faith in God’s plan. I have been so depressed due to my financial circumstances. I even started praying a novena to St. Jude, but as I am sitting here at work, it has just been reaffirmed: I must trust and have faith. Lavenia
A: Dear Lavenia: It is always easier to talk about faith than it is to embrace it when we are in situations that we cannot control. Remember, emotions do not detract from true faith which is in the heart. Hanging on the cross, Jesus was filled with faith in his Father. But likely he could not feel anything but the physical and mental pain imposed on him. The Lord Jesus knows your situation. Just crawl into his arms and let him hold you. Friar Jim
Dear Friar Jim: Thank you for your E-spiration about God being with us on the journey. Sometimes I feel alone—and lonely—in this life. Good to remember that God is always with me. Simon
A: Dear Simon: It helps to understand that God in the flesh—Jesus himself—experienced what you and I experience but to an infinite degree. We remind ourselves that, in the end, Jesus was abandoned by his own apostles and left alone to suffer and die. Only his mother could watch, and how painful that must have been for both of them! Friar Jim