Advent’s call to Conversion
I think that the Season of Advent is the tenderest of Seasons. To me it seems to exhibit a sense of charm and gentleness which flows through its days as the sun gets lower in the sky. Somehow the days of Advent seem to express a blessedness which befits the pathway to the Incarnation.(Of course this only really works if you live north of the equator, but we do, so lets be grateful!)
But whilst this may be true for the latter part of the Season of Advent, it sadly often happens that we make the mistake of thinking that the whole of Advent is just a preface to Christmas. Up to the 17 December the Christmas Story doesn’t get a mention, rather what we are called to focus on is the second coming of Christ at the end of time and we are urged to make sure we are prepared and ready to meet the Lord. The Sunday gospels for the next three weeks will be all about recognising how vital it is that we are aware of the need to stay awake and to change our ways. To prepare for the Lord and to rejoice in the hope we all have, that in the fulness of time he will come again. So whilst that sense of tenderness and gentleness may warm our hearts we must also engage with the need to look into our hearts and ask ourselves whether we are experiencing that metanoia or conversion which John the Baptist will demand of us.
To aid and help us in this, Pope Francis has given us all a great incentive. On the 8th December the Year of Mercy will begin and at its centre will be a call to conversion. It will be a year when the great quality of Christian compassion will make its mark on the world. Mercy will be seen as the animator of Christian discipleship, as the works of mercy which flow from our calling to be like Jesus make their witness. It is a mighty challenge to us yet it is one which should come naturally and without surprise.
There will be many opportunities for us to reflect upon and live out the call. Many occasions when suddenly the moment presents itself and the question is asked. The small act of kindness, the tender gesture of concern, these are worthy instances when the mercy of God breaks forth into lives and changes people in ways that we can never have thought. Furthermore reflection on how in such instances the gospel comes to life and is truly made present impels us to understand the true extent to which that conversion of heart can capture our imagination and make us realise that our faith has a power and a majesty that is sublime.
As we journey through Advent, through this most inspiring of Seasons, can we resolve to make a small extra effort? Can we come to mass during the week and spend a few moments in quiet thought and contemplation of the joys and the gifts we have been given? Can we make the offer of an hour of our precious time to ponder on the beauty of the mercy of God which brings us into a truer understanding of the words of St Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians. This, the first Christian document expresses the compassion and mercy of God as made present amongst us in Jesus Christ. It is now proclaimed once again to us and the appeal still makes its point:
to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it.
May our Advent be a blessed one.