Wow, first I blink and the year of Mercy is ending and Advent starting. Then I blink again, only to have the second week of Advent finishing. The fact that I still haven’t accomplished the task of assembling an Advent Wreath, let alone gathered the materials to craft one, lingers over my head. Well, at least I will have two even candles rather than four uneven. Lord have Mercy on the single bachelor working third shift and on everyone else, you know we need it.
Time goes by so fast, especially today with all the distractions of work, cell phones, social media and driving. 2016, the year of Mercy, was a beautiful year for penance and to encounter God’s grace and now it concludes in the same way as every other year, with Advent. Many people just see Advent as the preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ, but historically, the Church has seen Advent as a preparation for the second coming of Christ and accordingly, she focuses on the Eschaton, which is the fancy word for the Four Last Things.
This focus on the Four Last Things, Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell, is evident in all Four Sundays of Advent in the Gospel readings where Jesus speaks of the end times and of His second coming. The Church is reminding us of the finite nature of this life. We will all meet Jesus as the Just Judge at some point, be it through death or upon His return at the end of time. Advent is the time when the Church reminds us to take time from our busy days and focus on our own mortality; to reflect on our lives and examine our consciences because we truly do not know the day or the hour of His second coming, or when He will call us to our own particular judgement when we depart from this life.
Now the topic of The Four Last Things is terrifying to nearly everyone as it is the final parting into the unknown that we all must inevitably face. I would argue that all fears, and to some extent most sin, stem from a fear of death. But Jesus tells us constantly in the Gospels to not be afraid of death. "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10: 28). We can look at the Gospels as proof that Jesus is the Master over death, He raises people from the dead and even raises Himself from the dead. If He says to not be afraid of death, should we not listen?
We often try to listen, but sometimes we fail. That is because we fail to trust Him. We take our eyes off of Him just as Peter did when he was walking on the water. Peter started focusing on the storm and waves around him, and not on Jesus. Advent is such a beautiful time to step back from our lives, take a break from the endless distractions we engage in, distractions that keep us from focusing on Christ. When we shift our focus back on Jesus, we see Him as a newborn infant, waiting for us to pick Him up and hold Him in our arms. Our Lady is ever so ready to let us hold and behold her newborn Son.
The struggle is real when overcoming distractions, and focusing our gaze on Jesus and choosing to trust in Him to provide for me. I always tell myself that if I can trust my “smart” phone’s GPS to get me to a job interview on time, I should be able to trust Jesus with my hopes, dreams and soul right? Well, we are all sinners who can get distracted and allow our trust to weaken, but the Church has given us some wonderful ways of getting ourselves back on track, and allowing us to melt in the mercy of His Most Sacred Heart.
Some of my favorites are the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Diary of St. Faustina. They are such a profound and beautiful devotion that can draw us closer to Jesus quicker than the speed of light. The Chaplet is a beautiful prayer given to the Church through Jesus' revelations to St. Faustina in the early 20th century. The Drew Mariani Show on Relevant Radio prays it daily at 3:00 PM on the air and takes callers' prayer intentions. People call in from all over the country with their deepest needs, and they are prayed for by Drew and listeners all over the country. It is intense. I can really feel the Holy Spirit pouring out Mercy to the world when I listen/pray with them. https://www.relevantradio.com/chaplet-of-divine-mercy-audio Here is a link to the prayer on the website, and from there you can find details on how to tune in live for the Chaplet, among the many other amazing programs the station offers. They have an app as well, and it is fantastic!
To supplement this beautiful prayer, I typically meditate on some parts from St. Faustina’s Diary. Her diary records the apparitions and messages given to her by Jesus. These messages all focus on the mercy of Jesus, and how He is always waiting for us to come to Him and accept His mercy. He says the greatest pain caused to His most Sacred Heart is when a soul doesn’t trust in His mercy, but His greatest joy is when a sinner repents. It is so hopeful! A beautiful reminder that He wants to give us His mercy even more than we may want to receive it. We simply must trust in Him. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Our Lord,“‘I am love and mercy itself. There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted – it increases. The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I Myself take care of it.’” (1273, page 459)
My devotion to Divine Mercy always solidifies during Advent because the season always causes me to examine my own mortality. I am amazed that another year has flown by and I am still not where I want to be in life. But Jesus always gently reminds me to keep focusing on Him, and trust Him. He has me exactly where He wants me, and the Immaculata is guiding me. I simply cannot lose focus and I have to abandon my will and focus to Him. I hope that you too can find comfort in the Devotion to Divine Mercy this Advent season. God be with you.