Most of what we know about the first Christmas comes to us from St. Luke. The Roman census, the crowded inn, the shepherds keeping night watch, the message of the angel and the song of the heavenly host proclaiming “peace to people of good will” – all of these treasured details are handed on to us through Luke’s Gospel. Tradition suggests that Luke had met Mary, and learned these details from her recollections. As he records twice, “Mary kept all these things and reflected on them in her heart.”
Another tradition, supported by St. Paul (Colossians 4:14), tells us that St. Luke was a physician. Though the practice of medicine is vastly different today, at its core remains the dedication to healing, wholeness, and life. Luke is especially attentive to Jesus’ miracles that cure the sick and restore hope and well-being, recording at least a dozen of them. He also includes parables of Jesus not found in the other three Gospels: the Prodigal Son, the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, and powerfully, the Good Samaritan, stories of healing, mercy, and compassion. Jesus announces His mission at the beginning of His ministry:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me … He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor … liberty to captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18).
This year, I invite you to join in An Advent of Healing. As COVID continues to influence our lives and communities in myriad ways, we experience so profoundly our need for healing – healing of bodies, healing of relationships, healing of grief and loss, healing of tensions.
Advent always looks back in time, recounting the prophecies and foreshadowings of the promised Savior, a word with roots in the term for Healer. That looking into the past culminates in our celebration of the birth of Jesus. But Advent also intends to look forward, to the return of the same Jesus Christ in glory. As surely as God fulfilled the promise of sending a Redeemer, so surely will God keep that promise of the Lord’s return. Thus, as the liturgy reminds us daily, “we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Troubled times are an opportunity to deepen our awareness for the need for a Healer and to renew our hope in the faithfulness of God. In these coming weeks, pray for and work for healing in your life and relationships.
While Advent can become frenetic with preparations for Christmas, seek the healing of quiet, calm, serenity by making intentional time for prayer and reflection. Take needed rest and seek moderation in your use of media, food, drink, your smartphone. Offer apologies that are needed, and accept those given, to restore wholeness to relationships.
Go out of your way to do a deed of kindness for another, even a smile and a word of greeting rather than hurrying past. Consider a daily journal of gratitude: one thing each Advent day where you have experienced God’s presence. Discuss a family gift to a charitable organization.
As you write each card or wrap each gift, offer a prayer for each person who will receive it. Have each member of the household set aside one gift they have received to give away in turn to the less fortunate. And for the deepest healing of the soul, receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Christmas.
These are a few ideas; there are many other possibilities. As Mother Teresa so often said, none of us can do everything, but each of us can do something. Awaiting Jesus our Savior, we can make this season filled with new hope: an Advent of Healing.