It seems as if daily we witness violence, dissension and other social ailments. How might we keep this from overshadowing the Christmas season and the anticipation of a hopeful new year?
In Christ we have our answer: Love conquers all. Faith in the awesome power of love is paramount for combating the malaise surrounding us. An excellent way to translate love into our daily lives is to practice its two most precious qualities: kindness and mercy.
Kindness encourages us to examine how well-disposed we are toward life. Are we down on the world, on those around us and ourselves? Or does our gratefulness for being part of God’s creation and its challenges reign? Does negativity outweigh our zest for life?
Our disposition is paramount for determining the love needed to conquer all. The more well-disposed we are, the better can we keep the ills of our times from extinguishing the Christmas spirit.
The same holds for mercy.
When we had battles in our home, my Italian grandfather would say, "Why are you making so much of this? Let it go, life is too short. Mercy, forgiveness and forgetfulness are to be preferred to your bellicose disposition." The "it" of which he spoke was a hardened heart and a reminder to keep it supple and well-disposed. He would also add, "You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar."
What is the very essence of being well-disposed when dealing with the good of others?
Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna gives us the answer in his book We Have Found Mercy. He says that when helping others "we should do it simply and immediately, without asking how we will benefit from it." In other words, putting aside our ego is essential for practicing love and mercy.
He also says that "Jesus does not want us to treat others, our brothers and sisters in need, merely as instruments of our own sanctification, as means to a pious end." Here, he goes to the heart of love and mercy: Treatment of others must be "selflessly, for the neighbor’s sake" and not for reward, recognition and feeling good about the self.
At times, our world seems to be more heartless than heartwarming: Belligerent rhetoric abounds and advocating use of force often outweighs a disposition toward achieving peace amicably.
The Christmas season is a blessed time to focus more deeply on the meaning of Christ entering our lives and especially his message: Love overcomes all.
Father Hemrick is a columnist for Catholic News Service.