I would like to share a few ideas with you on how each one of us can make this season of Advent more sacred, more spiritual and more meaningful. You know it is very easy to criticize all the materialism and the paganism and the secularism that seems to be so often associated with this beautiful holiday of the Birth of Christ. This criticism doesn't do much to change anything. Each one has an obligation to make this season most sacred. How? One of the most beautiful approaches to the season of Advent can be found in the writings of St. Francis. He, as you know, is the author of that beautiful prayer, "Lord make me an instrument of your peace, where there is sadness let me bring joy; where there is hatred, let me bring love; where there is despair, let me bring light." Each one in his own way has the ability within himself or herself to become an instrument of peace to those nearby.
Just three little norms; bring into your life and eventually into the life of others a spirit of forgiveness, a spirit of compassion and a spirit of charity.
A spirit of forgiveness.
If we study the life of this Christ, whom we will single out in a few weeks, basically his life was a life of forgiving others. We have heard the expressions, "Forgive those who have trespassed against us. Forgive each other seventy times seven times. Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. Before you come to the altar, if you are at odds with your brother, leave your gift, go be reconciled with your brother, and then come and bring your gift to Christ at the altar."
The theme of forgiveness.
You know if you go back forty years or forty-one years ago, you find a classic example in the life of the mother of St. Maria Goretti. Remember that story of how her daughter was raped and killed. The man responsible became repentant, went into a monastery and made his peace with them, the family, and God. One night at St. Peter's Basilica about 40 years ago, this man was accompanied to and from the altar by the mother of St. Marie Goretti. Basically, the reporters who saw this man said, "How, Mrs. Goretti, could you possibly forgive this man?" She simply answered, "If my daughter could forgive him before she died, then so could I." We follow a Christ during this Christmas season who taught us we must rather carry a cross than carry a grudge.
A spirit a compassion.
The second point that enables each one of us to become an instrument of peace is the spirit of compassion. If you recall many, many years ago, there was a Dr. Tom Dooley who did a tremendous amount of work for the suffering people in Southeast Asia. He wrote a beautiful poem and one of the verses goes something like this, "Listen to the agony of mankind. I, who am fed, who never went hungry for a day, I see the children starved for bread, I see them and I want to pray. Listen to the agony of mankind and know full well that not until I share their bitter pain, their living hell, shall God within my spirit dwell." That's compassion and you say, that's the Southeast Asia victims, no, that's the compassion Christ expects you expects me to exercise in our relationships with all of those people close to us, who are near and dear to us in our lives. Compassion isn't something out there, it's something you exercise, right in the confines of your own home.
A spirit of charity.
And the final technique for becoming an instrument of peace is the spirit of charity. This whole theme of Christmas, of anticipation, and excitement is to remind us of a Christ who came into the world to preach a gospel of love. As he said so often, by this, not success or wealth or influence or affluence, by this, namely love, will men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another as I have had love for you. A new commandment I give you, he said, that you love one another as I love you. That charity that we are expected to exercise toward those nearby is spiritual. It's transcendent. It is not romantic. It is not biological. It's based on being a carbon copy of the life of Christ, which was a life of charity.
A spirit of forgiveness, a spirit of compassion, a spirit of charity. All of these enable us to make the season of Advent more sacred and more spiritual. It also enables each one of us, in the language of St. Francis to become an instrument of peace to each other. May God bless you.
The Best Thing to Give
The best thing to give
to your enemy is forgiveness;
to an opponent, tolerance;
to a friend, your heart;
to your child, a good example;
to a father, deference;
to your mother, conduct
that will make her proud of you;
to yourself, respect;
to all men, charity.
- Francis Maitland Balfour
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