Mercy, Mercy We
The following is the fifth of an eight-part Advent series on the Beatitudes, which are found in the opening section of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. The Church considers the Beatitudes the very heart of Jesus' preaching.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Mt 5:7).
Maybe they are seven years old. Maybe they are five. If they are 12 or 13 maybe we'd all be better because of it.
Nevertheless, the question will come, certainly. And when it does, maybe you'll hear a tectonic groan beneath your household. Seismic plates may shift. A teacup could tumble. The truth and the miraculous, intertwined as a matter of course, will inevitably disentangle, like a child's shoelaces.
An apple will be bitten. Cold calculations will be confronted. Maybe baby bites at first. Maybe a few lead-in questions, such as, "How can a reindeer fly when it doesn't have wings?"
As a child becomes spatially savvy, you may see a storm brewing upon his or her brow as he or she mulls the width of the chimney flue and the girth of Santa's stomach. He or she may squint at the pitched roof, all the while trying to rationalize an improbable, gift-laden rooftop landing.
The child may begin to pshaw the sheer logistics of a one-night benevolent romp around the globe.
Bit by bit, detail by astounding detail, he or she may unravel the myth, while you still coax the child to hold on to its authenticity.
Or maybe the question just comes out of the blue, a sparrow falling.
Is Santa Claus real?
* * * SPOILER ALERT! * * *
Eh-hmm. As a father and uncle of little ones, maybe it's best that I plead the Fifth.
But what I won't keep quiet about is the Merciful One who leaves Santa in a snowdrift when it comes to generosity and miracles. Yes, Jesus Christ, Lord of Hosts, Prince of Peace, Incarnate Son of the Father, is real.
And He's the Giver of the greatest gift of all, the only gift that really matters: redemption. Christ tells St. Faustina, "Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet" (Diary, 699). His gift comes at a very reasonable cost: We must trust Him, accept His mercy, and be merciful to others "always and everywhere (Diary, 742).
Is Santa real?
If asked, try this out for an answer: "There are mixed opinions. But what is certain is that Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate on Christmas Day, is real, without question, and He longs to live within us!"
Indeed, look around. You can get a glimpse of Him in the hearts of more people than you can imagine.
He is the medical worker who gives free care for the uninsured.
He is the teacher who instills compassion.
He is the boss who invites a weary employee to cut out early.
He visits the sick and befriends the lonely.
He is the member of the military who gives his life for his country.
He is the neighbor who shakes the hand of a new immigrant.
He is the parent who patiently sits with a child through Frosty the Snowman for the 40th time.
He is the Red Sox fan now quietly pulling for the Cubs.
He says a silent prayer whenever the sirens go by.
He is the coach who makes sure all the kids play.
He is the mentor of a troubled child, the tutor at a prison.
He is the mother who chooses to have the baby.
He is the foster parent. He has adopted a child.
He is the impetus for all belly laughs.
He is the driver who pulls over when you're stalled in the breakdown lane.
He is the firefighter or ambulance corps member who leaves the warm safety of a bed on a frigid night to respond to an alarm.
He is the oil chief who provides cheap fuel for poor families during a cold winter.
He leaves Divine Mercy prayercards in churches, buses, and subways.
He is the farmer who shares his harvest.
He is the gardener on bended knee in a traffic island getting his hands dirty in autumn to ensure daffodils in the spring.
He is the calming and comical nurse.
He is the politician who shuns credit.
He makes the meals.
He takes the fall.
He is the brave voice who declares "God loves you — no matter what!"
He is the gutsy superman and superwoman. The donor of time and talent. The jolly ally. The friend forever. The voice for the weak. The devotee of the disenfranchised.
He is the merciful we.
Let the little ones come to Him.
• Part One: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
• Part Two: "Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted."
• Part Three: "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land."
• Part Four: "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied."
• Part Five: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."
• Part Six: "Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God."
• Part Seven: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."
• Part Eight: "Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."