The day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus over two thousand years ago, is drawing very close. The Church’s Advent Liturgy is unbelievably rich in helping us to reflect and pray on this unfathomable mystery of God’s stupendous gift to us of His only begotten Son.

In today’s Gospel from St. Matthew, we read: ‘John the Baptist in his prison heard what Jesus was doing’. St. Matthew says ‘his prison’ not just ‘prison’.  This leads us to reflect on how all of us can be in some kind of prison at one time or another in our lives – the prison of fear, of insecurity, selfishness, depression, pride, prejudice, illness, unbelief, poor self image – the list is endless.  Whatever it may be, we too, like John the Baptist, can hear in the Gospels, what Jesus said and did, and of course, we hear him in the teaching of the Church.

A few weeks ago Pope Francis in his Angelus message to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square said: ‘I would like all of you to consider a medicine,” at this point he raised a little box for the crowds to see.  The Pope continued: ‘It is a special medicine to make the fruit of the Year of Faith more concrete’-  and I’m sure we could add to the Pope’s words of encouragement –, to make our whole life more fruitful  when we are healed of what it is that imprisons us –

 ‘Take it!’ said the Pope,  It’s a Rosary which one can pray also the chaplet of Divine Mercy, spiritual help for our souls and for spreading love, forgiveness and brotherhood everywhere’.  ‘Don’t forget to take it,’ he repeated, ‘because it does good.  It does good for the heart, for the soul, for all of life’.  And earlier on, the Pope had emphasised the need for faith and trust in God in the face of life’s difficulties –‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened’ Jesus invites us in the Gospel.

In all life’s difficulties, we can be certain that Pope Francis would have great compassion and a desire for the healing of all who suffer from interior imprisonment of whatever kind, when handing out his special medicine.  The little box also contained a leaflet  with all the necessary explanations and prayers on it –  and a final assurance (as we find in many medicines) ‘this medicine has never been known to cause any harm!’

Our Advent journey, and indeed the spiritual journey of our whole life, is not any isolated selfish seeking of personal holiness – quite the contrary.  Into this journey, fortified by our spiritual medicine, we bring the whole of humanity, pleading for their salvation, the whole purpose for which God sent His Son into the world (the purpose too of course, for which St. Dominic  was inspired to found his Order).

May our prayer during the remainder of this Advent be one, especially, of listening and of fostering a spirit of awareness of the Presence of God in our lives; and of living, with the help of his ever present Grace, the sacrament of the present moment , in our daily lives.  Let us

remember that the healing of the Sacrament of Penance and the food of Jesus Himself in the Holy Eucharist and in his Word, will be for us all, a vital help in our many sufferings and weaknesses – it is at times hard to believe, but God really and truly does  thirst for  our love – ‘I have loved youwith an everlasting love, I have called you, for you are mine’ we read in holy Scripture,  What joy, what peace, what healing this brings us.

Let us then, once again, invite him to come to us and to all peoples – ‘Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay’.

Don’t forget to take the medicine’ Pope Francis repeated to the crowds ‘ because it does good!’