Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Advent 2: Voices of mercy

Entrance to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome
The Jubilee Year of Mercy opens today, the doors unsealed first in Rome, spreading outward in these next weeks.  Four voices of mercy...

Last night, at Evening Prayer for the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception, the monks here read from John Paul II's encyclical Dives in misericordiaRich in mercy.  In it he reminds us of "the mystery of the cross, the overwhelming encounter of divine transcendent justice with love: that 'kiss' given by mercy to justice." Mercy and faithfulness have met; justice and peace have embraced. The reader stood at the edge of the darkness that flooded the church nave, the cross suspended above him.  Mercy and faithfulness, justice and peace, stretched out before us, stretched out for us.

This morning, I wondered at a hundred men (and four women) chanting the canticle from Samuel, "My heart exults in the Lord..." It is, of course, not Samuel's song, but Hannah's, which Luke puts in Mary's mouth as the Magnificat.  We pray both canticles over and over in the Liturgy of the Hours, but how often do we think about the voice? God's enduring promises of mercy and justice, pouring forth in a woman's voice. Do we hear the call for mercy when it comes from unexpected places, do we disregard it when it issues from those we considered unworthy, less?

I read with my morning tea, the Papal Bull for the Jubilee Year.  In light of the shameful hate-filled political rhetoric in the US this week, this section struck me deeply [23, emphasis mine]

"There is an aspect of mercy that goes beyond the confines of the Church. It relates us to Judaism and Islam, both of which consider mercy to be one of God’s most important attributes. Israel was the first to receive this revelation which continues in history as the source of an inexhaustible  richness meant to be shared with all mankind. As we have seen, the pages of the Old Testament are steeped in mercy, because they narrate the works that the Lord performed in favour of his people at the most trying moments of their history. Among the privileged names that Islam attributes to the Creator are “Merciful and Kind”. This invocation is often on the lips of faithful Muslims who feel themselves accompanied and sustained by mercy in their daily weakness. They too believe that no one can place a limit on divine mercy because its doors are always open.

I trust that this Jubilee year celebrating the mercy of God will foster an encounter with these religions and with other noble religious traditions; may it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination."


Yes, this last might prove difficult.  But might I suggest Fran Rossi Szpylczyn's reflection for the day, "Say Yes"?

To celebrate the opening of the Jubilee Year, Loyola Press is featuring daily moments of mercy for Advent. Sign up here to get a bit of mercy in your email!

I note in passing that the New American Bible posted at the USCCB elides the connection with Hannah in its notes on Luke.


  1. Been meaning to tell you the liturgical background color for your blog is a nice touch. Old rose for week 3?

    1. It's nice to know someone noticed! And yes, maybe a tinge of rose for Gaudete Sunday!