Advent Reflection

ted-bergh-2015-photoThe Holy Door of Mercy closed at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral at the 4:30 pm Mass on November 19, 2016. The Holy Doors at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome closed on
Sunday November 20, 2016. This ended the Jubilee of Mercy declared by Pope Francis but did not end God’s Mercy to all who are poor, vulnerable or at risk. God’s mercy to all men and women is everlasting and we could not exist without it.
Advent began last Sunday – a season of hope in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. A dark time of suffering under the Roman occupation of Palestine preceded
the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Today many are facing a dark time in our country and in the world. With more refugees since World War II, violence abroad and in our
cities, unacceptable poverty and hunger locally and internationally, uneven economic opportunity, not enough good jobs to support families, and no political consensus or plan to mitigate the suffering, it seems to many that we are lost and in darkness.
The Holy Father visited and addressed Congress in September 2015 with a message of hope and informed action to reduce suffering in the nation and in the world.
“You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all
politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating growth of all its members, especially those in situations of
greater vulnerability or risk. ”
In this address he selected four Americans who model the qualities that he valued:

  • Abraham Lincoln – liberty (human dignity)
  • Dr. Martin Luther King – liberty in plurality and non-exclusion (common good)
  • Dorothy Day – social justice and the rights of persons (solidarity)
  • Thomas Merton – the capacity for dialog and openness to God (communication)

Both President Lincoln and Dr. King worked for liberty and equality for all men and women. The first led the nation was through a violent civil war and the second through a non-violent movement. Both died violently and many continue to suffer through unequal opportunity and die through violence. Pope Francis referred to the Gospel for counsel:

“In a word if you want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunity, let us give opportunity. The yardstick we use for others is the yardstick which time will use for us.” (Matt 7:12)

Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton were surprising choices since neither was as well known as President Lincoln and Dr. King. Dorothy Day started the Catholic Worker Movement described by the Pope as, “The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes.” He also referenced his Pastoral Letter, Laudato Si by calling for, “An integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature. …to put technology at the service of another type of progress, one that is healthier, more humane, more social, more integral.”
Thomas Merton, a Trappist Monk from the Abbey of Gethsemane near Louisville, KY, was referenced for a prayerful approach and willingness to dialog for a solution: “Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitude of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the church. He was a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between people’s and religions.” Merton closes the loop by being aware of God’s calling, identifying different perspectives and communicating with conflicting views to lift up the human situation.
Although we may live in dark times, when we remain faithful to our mission we are acting on the Pope’s words and continuing the message of the Jubilee of Mercy. When we serve, enlighten and empower, we remove some of the darkness. Thank you for staying faithful to our work to serve,
With peace, Ted

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