“SOMETIMES it is not enough to do our best; we must do what is required.”
With deep humility and integrity, Pope Francis personifies the season of Advent.
He is a champion and herald of light. He is also courageous, as witnessed last week in his address to the European Parliament. He invites all Christians and religions to be bold in dreaming and to challenge the shadows of injustice and prejudice.
We have begun the liturgical season of Advent. This is a time of preparation and, indeed, a time for all of us to grow in the hope that God wants us to possess in our heart. The Prophet Isaiah foretold: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”
Advent is a time for all of us to grow in hope and to avail of the spiritual gifts that are truly greater than any we may long for and may not afford. Advent is the great gift for anyone who has experienced darkness and vulnerability which, in truth, is perhaps all who may read this article. Jesus, whose birth we prepare for during this time of Advent, is often forgotten in the busy run-up to Christmas. Perhaps, if we ponder more on Jesus, our lives will change for the better in a very real way this Christmas.
Jesus wants to plant his light and hope in the places of our stories that may be darkened and overshadowed by the bruises of life that we all carry and, indeed, feel at times. Where sickness, addiction, bereavement, separation, depression and anxiety prevail, Christ, the lord of light, wants to heal and transform.
Just as his birth happened in a place of poverty and humility, so, too, in this time of winter darkness, the light of Christ wants to shine firstly in the places of pain and uncertainty that are felt in our lives. The more we long for God, the greater his birth will be in our hearts. The more we are indifferent to his presence and relevance, the greater the gift of faith and fulfilment with which he will bless us in our lives. Christ’s light is a bright source of love and joy that is freely available for all people.
Addressing the European Parliament for the first time, Pope Francis alluded to a general impression of “ageing and weariness” in Europe and said a new spirit should be built, where humans are not treated as programmable objects.
“In many quarters, we encounter a general impression of weariness and ageing, of a Europe which is now a “grandmother”, no longer fertile and vibrant. As a result, the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions.”
The pontiff said there are many situations in which human beings are treated “as objects whose conception, configuration and utility can be programmed, and who can then be discarded when no longer useful, due to weakness, illness or old age.”
He warned, however, against misunderstanding the concept of human rights and from their misuse, saying there is a “tendency to claim ever broader individual rights these days”.
“In fact, unless the rights of each individual are harmoniously ordered to the greater good, those rights will end up being considered limitless and consequently will become a source of conflict and violence,” Pope Francis has warned.
Speaking just several days after 600 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean between Sicily and North Africa, Pope Francis couldn’t help mentioning Europe’s immigration crisis.
“There needs to be a united response to the question of migration. We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery,” he said.
“The boats landing daily on the shores of Europe are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance. The absence of mutual support within the European Union runs the risk of encouraging particularistic solutions to the problem, solutions which fail to take into account the human dignity of immigrants, and thus contribute to slave labour and continuing social tensions,” he added.
Advent hope is brighter than any fear. May it shine and inspire justice and fairness.