Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
The Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord--Christmas: The Gift of Mercy
They were no different than us those people of the ancient days before Christ. Sure, they didn’t have the technology we have, but as people they were the same as us. They got lost in their daily routines, as we all are inclined to do. They called upon God in their needs but not their daily lives, as we all are inclined to do. They were easily swayed to go along with the modern times and the new morality of the Greco-Roman culture, just as we are swayed to go along with the modern morality as presented by much of the media. For them there was the draw of the pagan lifestyle with its deification of immorality. There were gods to be served by behaving like animals. For us, there is the draw of a new world where there is no right or wrong, where all truth is relative, where all forms of heinous behavior are protected by the gods of political correctness. Like us, the ancients looked at the world around them and questioned the purpose of existence. After all, life was expendable. The political class used rhetoric for what ultimately turned out to be their own ends. Many areas of the government existed more to serve itself than to serve its people.
Demagogues rose up every fifty years or so to lead people like lemmings off a cliff. Times change, but people don’t change. We have the same problems. Left to our own devices we find new ways to destroy ourselves and others.
The people of the past cried out for a Savior to free them from the power of evil. And so do we. And God, the Eternal Father, the Creator of the Universe, hears our cries, sees what our sins are doing to us, and has mercy on us.
The gift of Christmas, the gift of Jesus Christ is the gift of mercy. Archbishop John Clement Favalora, Archbishop Emeritus of Miami and the former Bishop of St. Petersburg, has written, “What greater act of mercy could there be than for the Father to have His Son be born in the flesh and live our life. What greater act of mercy could there be than for the Father to send His Son to show us the Way back to the Father.” Our God, the creator of millions of stars, of trillions of planets, looks on earth, looks on his ultimate creation, rational life capable of loving him, mankind, sees what the rejection of His Love is doing to His people, and has mercy upon us.
He has mercy on us as a people, the human race. He has mercy on us as individuals, for each of us is a unique reflection of His image and likeness. Our God loves us too much to allow us to be hurt by evil, whether that evil comes from the spiritual force of evil, the devil, from others, the diabolical, or from within ourselves, the deceived. It is so important that we remember how powerful our God is. Many times people will joke that if they go to Church they will be struck by lightning or the walls will fall down. Well, the Church has very strong walls and great lightning protection. The lightning protection is the Body and Blood of Christ. The strong walls are the People of God.
Why do we do this? Why do we think that our sins are more powerful than God’s mercy? Perhaps we are humbly recognizing our failings, and I don’t doubt the sincerity of any of us when we feel the weight of our sins. But we are called to a greater humility. We are called to have the humility to realize that we need the mercy of God. Why do we think that God would not forgive us, no matter what we have done? Folks, here’s a news flash, for me as well as for you: None of us are that good at being bad. We can never be so bad that God will refuse to forgive us. Pope Francis is fond of saying, “There are no limits to God’s mercy, other than the limits we put on His Mercy.” If we think that we have done something so bad that God will not forgive us, then we are limiting the power of His Mercy. And we are making ourselves greater than God.
When the angels announced the birth of the Lord to the shepherds, they sang out, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to people of good will.” God is offering us peace. His peace. This is the inner peace of knowing that we are forgiven. It is the peace of knowing that we are united to Him. It is the peace of realizing that with Him our lives have meaning, and purpose, and fulfillment. It is the peace of experiencing the Mercy of God.
Perhaps some would consider the past year, consider the horrible mass shootings (defined by the FBI as three or more people in a public place) is over 300 so far, terrorist attacks, the seemingly never ending wars in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere, and question God’s peace. “How can you say there is peace in the world, Father? Look around you. I see crying parents and suffering children. I see ISIS and groups like them determined to destroy Christianity. I see the pornography industry that exploits women and children and destroys the very minds of those it lures into addiction. How can you say that there is peace in the world, Father?” This is an excellent question. To it, I respond, “And I see the Church being strengthened by those whose witness is more powerful than the weapons of evil. I see the Maximillian Kolbe’s of our day, peacefully accepting what evil does in order to proclaim the greater power of goodness. I see the Gianna Berretta Molas of the 21st century at peace with their choice of life no matter what it costs them. I see Teens and young adults and determined older Christians praying before the Eucharist and committing themselves to God. I see goodness all around us shouting from the quiet lives of the Sons and Daughters of God.
I see you, People of God, bringing light to those in darkness. I hear you shouting out with your lives, “I get it! I know what matters. I know the joy that endures and the sadness that is passing!” Men of God, Women of God, rise up! Shout out Philippians 4:7: Let the world know that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, is guarding our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Tell the world that this peace is offered to them. Tell the world about the Mercy of God. Tell the world that it is no longer empty.
The child has been born.
The world is full of the Presence of God.
And be merciful to others. We have to be vehicles of God’s mercy. We have received His Mercy. We need to extend this mercy to others. This includes being kind to those in our families, being generous to those who need our support, and asking God to sway the hearts of those committing evil. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” demands that we pray for those who have hurt us or are hurting us, from those within our families to those in the sleaze industries, to those who commit acts of terror. We need to pray for them all. We need to forgive them all.
The world has been entrusted to the Children of God. We have been mandated to transform the world into a place of love. The Power of God, the Holy Spirit has come upon us. The power of the Most High has overshadowed us. The One whom we carry to those around us, whom we bring into reality,
is the Holy Child, the Son of God.
Glory to God in the highest. He has been born. Everything has changed. The world has been transformed into the home of the Eternal One.
O Holy Night.
O Night of Joy.
O Night of Mercy.