• Immersed in Christ

November 30 Tuesday of the First Week of Advent, Year C2

Isaiah 11:1-10; Luke 10:21-24

After World War II, two Japanese seminarians came to study with us. A few years earlier, had we met in battle, we would have killed each other. Later, we hired a German who had fought in Hitler’s army. For three years, I spent every evening visiting with him and his family. Had we met during the war, we would have seen each other as enemies. This gives a sharp meaning to Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah: “Not by appearance shall he judge.” And it suggests a reason why, in his kingdom, “there shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea.”

Because of knowledge, as our psalm response says, “justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.” We just have to see each other as God sees us.

By “grace” we share in God’s own divine life, and by “faith” we share in his own divine act of knowing. By these gifts we can know the mystery of our graced relationship with human persons just as the Three Persons know their relationship with each other. This raises mercy-helping others out of a sense of relationship-to a divine level. It makes mercy as limitless as God.

Christian mercy is based on recognizing relationships as divine.

Daily Practice: Look at everyone with eyes of faith.

Advent Prayer: Lord, enlighten the eyes of your servant.

  • Immersed in Christ

November 29: Monday of the First Week of Advent, Year C2

Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22

When I was a missionary in Chad, I once gave one of my catechists a blanket. Later, he complained that a tribe member visiting his house had taken it.

“You know who took it”, I said. “Make him give it back.”

“Oh, no. He is a brother. I would be ostracized.”

I asked myself, “Why are we evangelizing them? They could teach us!”

Jesus told us to give to everyone who begs from us and not to refuse anyone who wants to borrow (Matthew 5:42). Among the Ngamas, that is a binding tribal custom.

I realized that it is also a law of survival. In their economy, if a family’s field gets flooded, the community must share with them or they will die. Without sharing, the tribe will die.

Then I realized that most Ngamas didn’t go looking for those in need. They shared when they had to, and then only with fellow tribe members.

Mercy means to help others out of a sense of relationship. For Christians, Jesus expands relationship to embrace the whole world: “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all.” God wants all to be his children; God wants all to help all as brothers and sisters.

Jesus himself came “to seek out and to save the lost.” He sent out his disciples to be “fishers of men.” Mercy makes us missionaries.

Daily Practice: Don’t wait. Seek out and serve those in need.

Advent Prayer: Lord, teach me mercy.

  • Immersed in Christ

November 28: First Sunday of Advent, Year C2

Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4 2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

The peace treaty of 1918 punished Germany brutally for starting World War I. Fifteen years later, the crushed and humiliated German people elected Adolf Hitler to save them. After World War II, an enlightened United States saw that a stable, productive Germany was necessary to rebuild Europe, so it adopted the Marshall Plan, which earned George Marshall a Nobel Peace Prize. We also rebuilt Japan. Today, Germany and Japan are our allies. Mercy trumps revenge.

When Jesus’ contemporaries heard “The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise, I made to the house of Israel and Judah,” they understood this to mean military victory and prosperity. We know now that it meant mercy: mercy given and revealed through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Mercy is the hope that Advent holds out to us: God’s mercy to humans, and humans’ mercy to one another. God fulfills his promise by giving and teaching mercy. Paul prays, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.” Our well-being depends on showing mercy to every human being.

The gospel warns, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from...the anxieties of daily life.” Our preoccupation with making a good living can distract us from showing mercy to the poor and the spiritually unenlightened. Advent reminds us to refocus our hope in order to revitalize it.

Daily Practice: Trust only in having mercy.

Advent Prayer: To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.