Four Sundays on the Church’s liturgical calendar are dedicated to prayerful expectation of God’s coming among us as a newborn child. We are full of joy as we prepare to celebrate his birth, an event that forever changed our world for the better. Those who are blessed to know why God chose to come down to us are asked to spread the word that this beautiful child brings life-changing hope to a world mired in sin and tinged with despair.
The joy of a child’s birth belongs first and foremost to the mother who has carried and nurtured the nascent infant for nine long months. God’s gift of life was announced and received at the moment the Archangel Gabriel spoke to Mary of Nazareth. She responded with the loving trust of a devoted and faithful daughter of God: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.” (Lk 1:38) Mary’s Yes made possible the incarnation of Our Lord and Savior: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14)
Grace and truth are part of our everyday lives. Those who know God do not walk through life on Earth as if wandering in the dark, clueless about why they are here and what they are meant to do. In Advent, we have a special opportunity to reflect on how well we have fulfilled our obligations to God, and to our fellow man. Repentance is the humbling acknowledgement that we do not answer to ourselves, but rather to God, and to our neighbor. Sin is horrible, but there is a remedy at hand. God forgives those who are contrite and turn to him in sorrow.
I recently read a newspaper story about a woman who, following the Dobbs decision, had travelled from her state, where abortion is now heavily restricted, to a neighboring state where it is not. She told the reporter she did not like feeling that because she could not get an abortion where she lived, what she was doing was wrong. She had to sneak away, as it were, to do something not approved of at home.
That is the working of a just law: Crime is stigmatized, and people contemplating committing a criminal act are reminded that they will bear that stigma. In this case the expectant mother went ahead and aborted her unborn child. We should pray that her regret over losing legal approbation of her deadly choice in her home state will cause her to pause and reflect upon what she did. “If the citizens of my home state find abortion to be wrong,” she might say to herself, “then maybe I should find out why this is so.” The answer to that question is as simple as the celebration we are preparing for at Christmas: God was born of his Blessed Mother, and all of God’s children deserve to celebrate the day of their birth.
Repentance for sin, including the sin of abortion, is what we all should seek, no matter how badly we have acted up until now. Advent is a great time to arm ourselves with God’s grace and forgiveness—and to start again.