The Jubilee Year of Mercy has begun and we must all try our best to embrace the many special channels of grace and beauty and blessing that are unmistakably going to come our way from the Father’s loving heart for each one of us. Most especially we need to be open and increase our awareness and sensitivity (put up our spiritual antennae so to speak) to the grace of God’s mercy and compassion that will come to us;
a) through the most unlikely of situations and persons. (even complete strangers) And
b) in all likelihood, from those with whom we are most familiar and perhaps too often take for granted – our family and relations
Scenario (a) has to be more than a pious aspiration though. We should ask God for His grace to place people in our path from whom we might be recipients of his love even non-believers. This is about deepening our confidence and trust levels in Christ. In the Diary of St. Faustina, the 20th century mystic recipient of the Divine Mercy messages, we read; “Most dear to me is that soul that strongly believes in My goodness and has complete trust in Me. I heap my confidence in it and give it all it asks.”
So if we’re at times fearful or worn down by the cares and woes of life, that we feel a bit under cherished and loved, which can hit us all from time to time, let’s ask God for a consolation or a sign of His love but be prepared for Him to select the source He wants us to have it from.
Scenario (b) is a ‘given’ surely ..? I hear you say, especially at this time of year as we prepare to gather as family and share peace and goodwill, joy and cheer. Well yes, and no. Of course we expect and will most likely receive gestures of love and encouragement from our nearest and dearest but if we want the quality of that love to be more than just seasonal goodwill and quickly passing cheer we must first give more love, more mercy, more active forgiving (even without being asked) so that by God’s design and foresight of His Mother we will be rewarded for our generosity to our loved ones.
I am always reminded how in Luke 7:47 when the sinful woman anoints the feet of Jesus, washing them with her tears and wiping them with her hair, He proclaims “she is able to love much because she was forgiven much.” In other words when it comes to mercy and how we yearn to experience it ourselves from God, we reap what we sow. Oftentimes in family circumstances and the invariable reality of strained or uneasy relations (something familiar to many at Christmas) going that extra mile is a big ask; yet do it we must so that even if our gesture of love is not reciprocated by the one to whom we extend a hand of mercy, the mercy that God has in store for us as a reward, will come from another source and another person.
I end this thought with a link below to a truly remarkable image of a 12th century Book of Hours, probably crafted in southern Germany. What strikes me about this image of the Nativity is the very rarely, if ever, seen ACTIVE Infant Christ reaching out to His Blessed Mother. One can almost sense her natural human weariness as a new mother shortly after childbirth, to say nothing of the long, perilous and insecure journey to Bethlehem, and here is the beautiful vision of the outstretched hand of God of the baby Jesus touching His Mother, to comfort and console. May we all feel that same outstretched hand of Christ to us and in turn reach out from within our hearts to others in imitation.