Monday, December 20, 2010

Fourth Week of Advent: Thoughts of Justice

I've always thought of Advent and Christmas as a feel-good time.

And I'm not just talking about the wonderful sensual experiences that come with the season; the carols and songs and hymns; the explosion of colors and bright lights everywhere; the convergence of warm smells of baking and cooking and spiced potpourri with the cool air outside; reconnecting with family and friends.

I'm also talking about those time when we're able pull ourselves out of the "must-do" mode to spend some time with God, it's always with the expectation that our encounter with God is going to make us feel good.  And often it does.

Our good feelings during the season often lead us, individually and as a society, to make charity a part of the season.  What is the scene that is portrayed most often in the holiday movies?  Two things: Taking time to collect presents (or food baskets) or helping with a Christmas meal for the homeless. All good.

But there is an aspect to Advent that is also much like Lent. We must also view the season as an opportunity to step back and look at justice in addition to charity. I want to share some wonderful quotes.

This one came via an attachment that came with a JustFaith e-mail.  The piece was written by Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love
What is there to celebrate in this darkness?  Emmanuel means “God is with us,” not that heaven appears on earth and peace and justice instantly in our time.  Instead, the promise of the Incarnation is that God is with us through it all, in illness, poverty, homelessness, repression, war, in the middle of the night in the most lowly circumstances.  God is in all things.  
Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan, expressed the same sentiment in a different way in a recent homily:
We're not especially known in our culture for giving good news to the poor. We'd much more be happy if tax breaks are given to the rich. That's what makes our country happy. We're not happy...when the lepers, the unworthy ones on the edge are reentered into the society. In fact, we'd prefer to keep them on the edge.

Jesus is not concerned about the top. He's always healing the bottom.He's not concerned about the center.  He's always pulling in the edge. And we have to ask, "Is that what we're concerned with? Listen to Dec. 11 homily Don't Make Jesus into Santa Claus  (Based on Matthew 11:2-11)
And still another voice is found in the December 2010 edition of  the Bread newsletter, in a piece authored by theologian Marva Dawn
Our Savior entered the world in poverty. Can you imagine being laid as an infant in scratchy, smelly straw?

Too often we romanticize Christ’s birth in making our Christmas Eve sentimental, instead of recognizing the reality of the wretched stable, with its aroma of manure and inhospitality to the young mother and her child. Even as we cringe to acknowledge that reality for our beloved Lord, so Advent calls us to recoil similarly from the horrible conditions in which some of our fellow human beings barely survive. Our wanting the surroundings to have been different for our adored ChristChild fills us with eager desire to make things better for the needy in our world.
In the end, it is not what we do, but what God leads us to do.  Consider this quote:
Contemplation is not vision because it sees “without seeing” and knows “without knowing.’ It is a more profound depth of faith; a knowledge too deep to be grasped in images, in words or even in clear concepts. -Thomas Merton
Blessings on this Fourth Week of Advent

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