Mercy is Expressing
December 20: Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent, Year C2
Isaiah 7:10-14; Luke 1:26-38
Saint Ignatius once got so carried away expressing sorrow for his sins that he almost killed himself, beating his breast with a rock. What made him do that?
Christian spiritual history includes a current of “hatred for the body” because it is a home for temptation and sin. This led to extreme penances to “master the flesh.” But Francis of Assisi recognized a relationship of responsibility for “brother mule,” and had “mercy” on the body as servant of the soul. He even set aside the law of fasting during Lent to eat meat with a depressed brother.
Going deeper, the body is also the echo of the soul. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb.” When the Letter to the Hebrews quotes Christ as saying “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me,” it is encouraging us to use the body to “realize”—reveal and make real—our inner reality. The key to this is physical expression.
Giving physical expression to feelings intensifies them. Unchecked, they can explode beyond control, as Ignatius’ penance did. But physical expression is essential for growth, witness, and ministry.
Christ’s love blossomed for him and us through passionate physical expression on the cross. To “open the gates” of our reserve and let Jesus express himself physically in us is a key to the mercy we owe ourselves and others. It intensifies life.
Daily Practice: Express faith physically.
Advent Prayer: “O Key of David, opening the gates...come free the prisoners of darkness.”