The theme of this Jubilee Year of Mercy ties in closely with the mystery of Christmas.
The Jubilee of Mercy began with Pope Francis opening the Holy Door at St. Peter’s in Rome on December 8th. The opening of the door is meant to symbolically illustrate the idea that all of us are being offered a new path toward salvation during the time of jubilee. And isn’t the birth of God Himself, laid in a manger in Bethlehem, an expression of the immensity of His love for us! The fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human history. The history of sin can only be understood in the light of God’s love and forgiveness. Were sin the only thing that mattered, we would be the most desperate of creatures. The promised triumph of Christ’s love enfolds everything in the Father’s mercy. And the Baby laid in the manger is the witness of this promise and its fulfillment. As Pope Francis says, “in our life, everything is gift. Everything is mercy.”
Today’s feast, the Holy Family is the pattern for families. Today, as in every age, the Christian family is called to be holy, separate and set aside for the Lord. That means the Christian family must be different from families where God is an afterthought, if any thought at all. The Christian family must be a battlefield where evil is defeated now, and through the children in the future. How to do this?
First of all, families need to keep the presence of the Lord alive in the home by nurturing His presence in each individual family member. Secondly, families need to protect their homes from anything that would lessen His presence, by being careful about the subtle ways that evil compromises the integrity of the family. Thirdly, families need to seek out the Lord’s presence in others, particularly those who need special care. It is impossible for us to be perfect, but if we nurture the presence of the Lord in our families through prayer, if we are vigilant fighting against the attacks on the integrity of our families and if we reach out to the Lord in others, we will be holy families, set aside for the Lord and we will win for the Kingdom of God each battle that is waged in our homes. Note that this includes grandparents and great grandparents, aunts and uncles who can’t just sit back and be spectators. Sometimes you are the ones who help make the difference.
On January 1st, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God and the World Day of Peace. In Pope Francis’ message for this day, he says that peace is to be worked at: it is not something that one gains without efforts, without conversion of mind and heart, without creativity and without engaging in discussion. We just need to take a look around the world today to see the urgent need for peace in situations of intolerance leading to violence, disregard for the rights of entire peoples, exploitation of human beings, war with all its consequences. But peace is possible where the rights of every human being are recognized and respected, heard and known, according to freedom and justice. It is not enough to pray for peace, we must also work for it.
May Mary Mother of God inspire us so to do the Father’s Will that we will learn to love our neighbor and be at peace. Perhaps this could be the basis of a New Year’s resolution that we might actually practice longer than a week or two.
May the New Year prove to be a time to bear fruit in our lives by embracing the warmth of the love of the Christ Child and paying it forward to all we meet.