The following reflection is from the Advent Reflection Guide 2020: Building a Culture of Peace.
“Let it be done to me according to your word.”
- Luke 1: 38
In Pope Francis’s new encyclical on social friendship and dialogue, Fratelli Tutti, he speaks of the need for an open heart, explaining that such an interior disposition is key for building peace in our world. Mary’s response to the angel in today’s Gospel demonstrates the kind of openness that Pope Francis speaks of and that God desires of us.
Mary declares that she is open to welcoming Jesus; open to walking the hard path of discipleship that will lead to the death and resurrection of her Son; open to becoming the mother of all peoples.
What would it look like for us to have such a radical openness of heart towards God’s will and toward love of neighbor? In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis writes, “the guarantee of an authentic openness to God, on the other hand, is a way of practicing the faith that helps open our hearts to our brothers and sisters.”
Our world and our country today are fraught with division. Hateful language, mean-spiritedness, and belittlement of others abound. It is these kinds of breakdown in human relationships that Pope Francis is addressing in his new encyclical. These patterns lead to violence and a culture of indifference.
In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis highlights the Good Samaritan story from the Gospel of Luke as means for understanding how we can arrive at the kind of “openness of heart” needed in today’s fractured world. He understands the encounter in the story between the injured Jewish man and the Samaritan as not merely a single moment of charity but an encounter of mercy which leaves both individuals transformed. At the time of Luke’s writing, Jews and Samaritans hated each other; such an encounter could only have left a deep mark on each of them and their understanding of the other’s people.
Fr. Michael Bassano, MM, gives an example of the power of encounter in his ministry in a refugee camp in South Sudan: “The church isn’t a place; it’s a way of being together. So even though we’re in a Nuer tribe area of the UN camp, we intentionally invited Shilluk and Dinka tribes from other areas of the camp, especially the youth, to come here. It’s a place where diverse people come to become one people, worshipping God together. Every time we gather on Sunday for worship, we are a family of God, not divided by tribe, at peace with each other.”
Today’s Gospel reminds us that “Nothing is impossible for God.” The barriers that divide people today sometimes seen unsurmountable. When we live in a world of alternative facts, of starkly different visions of reality and for the future, it can seem impossible to find common ground.
But as we leave the Season of Advent and celebrate Christmas next week, we are reminded that God enters through the smallest foothold: a baby born to a poor teenage girl in an obscure part of the world. God can create in us an open heart if we offer up the smallest bit of room.
Questions for Reflection:
Are there broken relationships in your life that seem impossible? Have you ever experienced an “encounter of mercy” that transformed a situation?
A Prayer to the Creator
Lord, Father of our human family,
you created all human beings equal in dignity:
pour forth into our hearts a fraternal spirit
and inspire in us a dream of renewed encounter,
dialogue, justice and peace.
Move us to create healthier societies
and a more dignified world,
a world without hunger, poverty, violence and war.
May our hearts be open
to all the peoples and nations of the earth.
May we recognize the goodness and beauty
that you have sown in each of us,
and thus forge bonds of unity, common projects,
and shared dreams. Amen.
An Ecumenical Christian Prayer
O God, Trinity of love,
from the profound communion of your divine life,
pour out upon us a torrent of fraternal love.
Grant us the love reflected in the actions of Jesus,
in his family of Nazareth,
and in the early Christian community.
Grant that we Christians may live the Gospel,
discovering Christ in each human being,
recognizing him crucified
in the sufferings of the abandoned
and forgotten of our world,
and risen in each brother or sister
who makes a new start.
Come, Holy Spirit, show us your beauty,
reflected in all the peoples of the earth,
so that we may discover anew
that all are important and all are necessary,
different faces of the one humanity
that God so loves. Amen.
- Pope Francis, prayers from Fratelli Tutti
Faith in Action:
Explore our 6-page study guide on Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti, an encyclical on dialogue and social friendship.