Secular and religious Christmas music permeate the airwaves and stores. Christmas lights sparkle in neighborhoods at night. Shoppers carry bags full of holiday bargains. It’s hard to resist getting caught up in the excitement and busyness of the season. But it’s still Advent, a time intended for prayer and preparation; a time to focus on the One whose gift of self gave us the name “Christian.”
This Sunday, the third one of Advent, catches our attention in a visual way. We light a candle the color of a pink rose. This is a time to rejoice the nearness of the Lord’s coming. What better way to rejoice than to spend some time in prayer, meditation and activities focused on the well-being of others? What better time to interrupt our busyness for our Lord and Savior?
Our church has also entered the Year of Mercy, which Pope Francis called for because the world needs to contemplate the mystery of mercy, which is the wellspring of joy, serenity and peace. We think the Holy Father’s letter on mercy, “Misericordiae Vultus,” serves as a template for prayer and action that we can begin this Advent season and continue throughout the Year of Mercy.
Some ideas to consider:
• Read Scripture. Pope Francis notes that the signs Jesus works, “especially in favor of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy.” He recalls how Jesus looked upon Matthew, the tax collector, with merciful love and chose him to be one of the Twelve. In the First Letter of John, we are told that “God is love.” If we truly believe that fact, we’ll begin to look at the world in a different way. Pope Francis makes an observation about the parable of the ruthless servant that we should take time to reflect on and then embrace. “Jesus affirms that mercy is not only an action of the Father, it becomes a criterion for ascertaining who his children are. In short, we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been show to us.”
• Evangelize. This is not as scary as it might sound. Simply invite someone you know, who has never been to Mass or has fallen away from the church, to join you at Mass during the Advent season (and beyond). Greet newcomers to your parish with a warm welcome, whether or not you are an official greeter. Offer to pick up someone who doesn’t have transportation to get to Mass. Smile, in an understanding way, at the young parents sitting in back of you with squirming, boisterous kids.
• Make a pilgrimage. The Holy Father sees a pilgrimage as an impetus to conversion. We have nine pilgrimage sites to choose from in the Davenport Diocese. Read more about the pilgrimage sites in The Catholic Messenger this week and next week and on the diocesan website: www.davenportdiocese.org.
• Reflect and act on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. You can find these works on the diocesan website and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2447. These are ways in which we come to the aid of our neighbor in meeting spiritual and physical needs.
• Participate in the Opening of the Door of Mercy liturgy Dec. 13 at 9 a.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, the mother church of the Davenport Diocese.
• Receive the sacrament of reconciliation. The Davenport Deanery is hosting a Communal Penance Liturgy Dec. 13 at 3 p.m. in Sacred Heart Cathedral. The Iowa City Deanery is hosting a Communal Reconciliation Service Dec. 14 at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Iowa City. Bishop Martin Amos will preside with priests of the deanery attending. Confessions in Iowa City will be heard for 24 hours, beginning Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. and continuing until Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. Forty hours of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will end with the 8:30 a.m. Mass on Dec. 16 at St. Patrick’s. These services aim to encourage an encounter with God that inspires Catholics in the virtue of mercy.
• View our interactive Advent calendar at www.catholicmessenger.net and click on the Advent button.
Now we need to ask ourselves: Am I willing to interrupt the busyness of my life for prayer and social action this Advent season?
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor