Summary: Let Christ's transforming spirit make us a community of mercy and love.
New Year’s Eve 2015
Joy of the Gospel
The word “mercy” does not appear in either of our two readings today, yet our joy as we end a difficult year and continue the Holy Year of Mercy is to remember and celebrate the loving mercy of God. The “misericordia Dei” is what enables us to be together in a communion of hearts and minds. The Holy Father wrote in “the Joy of the Gospel”: ‘God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards!’
There is much to regret about 2015, especially the violence that has destroyed so many lives and hardened so many hearts. We all know the tales of Paris and Charleston and San Bernardino, but let’s not forget the terrible persecution of Christians by the self-styled Islamic state. The reactions have been as society-rending as the actions: anti-Arab and anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies. Yes, there are many who believe it is not just the last hour St. John wrote about, but the last hour for civilization. Are we descending into an era of chaos, fear, darkness?
St. John’s Gospel admits that the world did not and does not know the Incarnate Light, the Word-made-flesh, Jesus Christ. His epistle chronicles the tale of those who once believed in Him but defected from the Light and Truth. Jesus Christ is the solution to the world’s problems, but only because He taught us that the solution to the world’s problems is not in the imposition of force to eradicate evil. If we used force to eradicate evil, none of us would have survived. The evil is not “out there” but in here–in my heart and mind and in your heart and mind. Only the transforming power of Christ’s Holy Spirit, the very Third Person of the Trinity, can change hearts and minds. Only that kind of power–an external force working internally–can remake our minds and hearts into the Mind and Heart of Jesus Christ. It is for our rebirth that Jesus was born. He wants to transform individuals and communities into images of the early Church. Remember that Tertullian recorded what the pagans said about the early Church: “see how they love one another.”
So as we end this year of trouble and enter more deeply into the year of mercy, let’s reflect and act on the Pope’s words about the Church: ‘Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The Lord gets involved and he involves his own, as he kneels to wash their feet. He tells his disciples: “You will be blessed if you do this” (Jn 13:17). An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice. An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be. It is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance. Evangelization consists mostly of patience and disregard for constraints of time. Faithful to the Lord’s gift, it also bears fruit. An evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit, because the Lord wants her to be fruitful. It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the weeds. The sower, when he sees weeds sprouting among the grain does not grumble or overreact. He or she finds a way to let the word take flesh in a particular situation and bear fruits of new life, however imperfect or incomplete these may appear. The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed. Finally an evangelizing community is filled with joy; it knows how to rejoice always. It celebrates every small victory, every step forward in the work of evangelization. Evangelization with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as part of our daily concern to spread goodness. The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving.’