The Holy Year of Mercy has come to its close and the season of Advent has begun, but what effect does either have on my life?
During the Holy Year, Pope Francis has asked us for prayer and reflection on the gifts of the mercy and love of God the Father in our individual lives – for example, how many times have we been forgiven by others for faults ("what I have done and what I have failed to do") and yet have I always been willing to have the same attitude of forgiveness and understanding towards others ("as we forgive those who trespass against us")?
Mercy as a concept is one thing, but mercy as a way of life is much more difficult to define. What is it to be merciful? How often must I be merciful? What does mercy 'look like'?
The person of Jesus, the 'one who is to come' (in Latin, adventus) is the personification or incarnation – the 'taking of flesh' – of the mercy and goodwill and tenderness of God the Father. If you want to see what mercy looks like then look at Him – not just in the manger of Bethlehem or teaching on the Mount of Beatitudes, but also on the Way of the Cross and on Calvary, in the upper room after the Resurrection and on the road to Emmaus.
"In all his words most wonderful, most sure in all his ways," as Cardinal Newman put it.
Mercy as a way of life is a hard road – but it is the way of Jesus and, therefore, it is the way that leads us to fullness of life and love. Towards the end of Advent, the Church will pray the great 'O' antiphons – ancient texts of prayer that seek to express the great longing and desire of the people of God for love and mercy to enter their lives in a concrete, real way. One of these prayers talks of being "gentle but strong" in our living. May that be the gift of the Holy Spirit to you this Advent – the gentleness and strength of Christ Jesus.
• Each year the Knights of Saint Columba (KSC) promote their 'Keep Christ in Christmas' campaign. If you haven't done so already, seek out some cards and gifts which are reminders of the fact that Christ is at the heart of our celebration of Christmas.