By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published December 1, 2016 | En Español
The media reports begin to appear weeks before Thanksgiving Day, and they only intensify up to the very moment when the stores open their doors at some ungodly hour of the night or early morning of Black Friday. This marketing strategy repeatedly manages to get a lot of people excited about the bargains that are to be had by those who camp out or stand in long lines for hours to seize the moment.
Perhaps our Advent season that we just began might benefit from some of the Black Friday hype that abounds during this time of year. Advent, after all, is primarily a time of waiting and anticipation. However, this season is often overshadowed by the mercantile attention given to shopping and bargain hunting. We Catholics are invited to see these four weeks as a time of spiritual anticipation for the return of the Triumphant Christ at the end of time, as well as a season of heartwarming reflection on the birth of the Infant Lord into human history.
Excitement pervades the crowds that line up to buy one of a few big flat-screen televisions or the underpriced refrigerator, or any of a thousand other bargains. Each of those purchases may make us feel that we have beaten the system and found a bargain well worth our long wait in line.
What awaits us at the end of Advent? We will find a poor Infant in a manger, a baby housed in a stable because there were no empty rooms in the lodge. At the end of Advent, we will find the hope that when Christ comes in Glory, he will draw all of his disciples to himself in his Kingdom. The Advent season is a time of hope not based upon any shrewd marketing strategies but upon God’s more reliable fidelity.
Advent opens the new liturgical year for the entire Church, and so it is also a new beginning for believers as we close one year of grace in order to begin a new one. Annually the new liturgical year offers possibilities and hope for all of us. While we set aside many of the concerns of the past liturgical year, I hope that none of us will leave behind the message of mercy that filled so many of our activities as a consequence of the Jubilee Year of Mercy just concluded.
Last year, our hearts and minds were repeatedly invited to reflect on God’s abundant mercy toward us and we were all challenged to be merciful to others. Given the events of the past few months, who would doubt that mercy would be a welcome presence?
That legacy of the Jubilee Year should influence us throughout this new liturgical year. God’s mercy is not limited to any specific year from the past but is present in every moment of every year.
Few people would question our need to find a merciful response to the hostile environment that we now face as a result of our recent election activities, which seemed to offer so many moments of conflict on both sides of the political spectrum. May this Advent be a moment when we move beyond any hostility and anger to a new year of reconciliation, harmony and confidence. In addition to the coming of the Lord in history and in the future, may we find a new year that brings us all peace and hope.