First Sunday of Advent
MT 24:37-44
November 27, 2016

The division within our country can’t be denied. LET US PRAY for a spirit of empathy, so that Americans at least attempt to see what makes “the other side tick.” That might be the best way to start the healing process…empathy!

More painful to me, however, is what appears to be a growing and increasing public division within the Roman Catholic Church. There is a certain element within our Church, particularly here in the U.S., that is gravely concerned by implications to be found in Laudato si, the Holy Father’s second papal encyclical, and Amoris laetitia, the post-synodal exhortation by Pope Francis. The critics appear to come from a position of legalism, fearing the Holy Father’s tone is often too lenient. There are also negative comments floating around such things as His ecumenical efforts as well as his reluctance to “judge” those who some feel should be condemned…marginalized…excluded.

All this is somewhat ironic since the “legalist critics” of Francis seem to be overlooking Canon Law, which provides that the Bishop of Rome (currently Pope Francis) has supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary jurisdiction. In the not too distant past, this power has been used to silence opposition. At least at this point, the Holy Father has not taken repressive action. Hopefully, he will remain pastoral and patient. Whether in the civil arena or within the Church, efforts to bury opposition often prove to root it deep and firm within good soil, where it thrives. This does not lead to resolution, but continues the conflict.

These are certainly turbulent and unsettling times. The protests, the demonstrations, the violence and terror, the wars…even the climate and natural disasters fuel the argument of “survivalists” that humanity is …as the song form the ‘60’s goes…on the eve of destruction. Our Second Reading doesn’t help lighten the mood. Paul warns the Romans: The night is advanced, the day is at hand. This is not a good way to begin a new liturgical year!

It might enhance the joyful spirit of Advent to skip ahead and consider how Paul continues his letter. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! (Romans 15:4-13)

In order to “think in harmony,” isn’t it necessary to listen to one another? “To think in harmony,” don’t we have to try to get into…rather than under… each other’s skin? That is certainly what God has done through Jesus. The Divine has taken on human skin, and, in turn, has asked us to do the same…put on the Lord Jesus Christ! (Romans 13:14)

If we begin this new year with a new wardrobe and wear Christ to work, to school, to parish meetings, to family gatherings, then the day might come when two people with conflicting opinions might come to really empathize with one another, even as The Creator, through Jesus, empathized with human nature. The opinion that supports tender mercy and loving kindness (the Divine attributes) will be taken up…and the other left behind. As we begin the Season of Advent, LET US PRAY FOR A SPIRIT OF EMPATHY. Our survival depends on it!