December 4, 2016: Second Sunday of Advent
Catholic Social Teaching: Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
“All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.” All are called to holiness: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ’s gift, so that . . . doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints. (2013) Catechism of the Catholic Church
First Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm: 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Second Reading: Romans 15:4-9
Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12
Catechism of the Catholic Church
We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.” She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven: Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end. (1821) From the Daily Roman Missal, Introduction to the Second Sunday of Advent, Cycle A
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:
At the beginning of its history, the people of Israel are unlike other peoples in that they have no king, for they recognize the dominion of Yahweh alone. It is God who intervenes on Israel’s behalf through charismatic individuals, as recorded in the Book of Judges. The people approach the last of these individuals, Samuel, prophet and judge, to ask for a king (cf. 1 Sam 8:5; 10:18-19). Samuel warns the Israelites about the consequences of a despotic exercise of kingship (cf. 1 Sam 8:11-18). However, the authority of the king can also be experienced as a gift of Yahweh who comes to the assistance of his people (cf. 1 Sam 9:16). In the end, Saul is anointed king (cf. 1 Sam 10:1-2). These events show the tension that brought Israel to understand kingship in a different way than it was understood by neighbouring peoples. The king, chosen by Yahweh (cf. Dt 17:15; 1 Sam 9:16) and consecrated by him (cf. 1 Sam 16:12-13), is seen as God’s son (cf. Ps 2:7) and is to make God’s dominion and plan of salvation visible (cf. Ps 72). The king, then, is to be the defender of the weak and the guarantor of justice for the people. The denunciations of the prophets focus precisely on the kings’ failure to fulfil these functions (cf. 1 Kg 21; Is 10:1-4; Am 2:6-8, 8:4-8; Mic 3:1-4). (377)
Psalm 72:3, 7
The promise of peace that runs through the entire Old Testament finds its fulfilment in the very person of Jesus. Peace, in fact, is the messianic attribute par excellence, in which all other beneficial effects of salvation are included. The Hebrew word “shalom” expresses this fullness of meaning in its etymological sense of “completeness” (cf. Is 9:5ff; Mic 5:1-4). The kingdom of the Messiah is precisely the kingdom of peace (cf. Job 25:2; Ps 29:11; 37:11; 72:3,7; 85:9,11; 119:165; 125:5, 128:6; 147:14; Song 8:10; Is 26:3,12; 32:17f.; 52:7; 54:10; 57:19; 60:17; 66:12; Hag 2:9; Zech 9:10; et al.). Jesus “is our peace” (Eph 2:14). He has broken down the dividing wall of hostility among people, reconciling them with God (cf.Eph 2:14-16). This is the very effective simplicity with which Saint Paul indicates the radical motivation spurring Christians to undertake a life and a mission of peace.
On the eve of his death, Jesus speaks of his loving relation with the Father and the unifying power that this love bestows upon his disciples. It is a farewell discourse which reveals the profound meaning of his life and can be considered a summary of all his teaching. The gift of peace is the seal on his spiritual testament: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn 14:27). The words of the Risen Lord will not be any different; every time that he meets his disciples they receive from him the greeting and gift of peace: “Peace be with you” (Lk 24:36; Jn 20:19,21,26). (491)
Psalm 72 and Isaiah 11:2-5
The prototype of the king chosen by Yahweh is David, whose humble origins are a favourite topic of the biblical account (cf. 1 Sam 16:1-13). David is the recipient of the promise (cf. 2 Sam 7:13-16; Ps 89:2-38, 132:11-18), which places him at the beginning of a special kingly tradition, the “messianic” tradition. Notwithstanding all the sins and infidelities of David and his successors, this tradition culminates in Jesus Christ, who is par excellence “Yahweh’s anointed” (that is, “the Lord’s consecrated one”, cf. 1 Sam 2:35, 24:7,11, 26:9,16; Ex 30:22-32), the son of David (cf. Mt 1:1-17; Lk 3:23-38; Rom 1:3).
The failure of kingship on the historical level does not lead to the disappearance of the ideal of a king who, in fidelity to Yahweh, will govern with wisdom and act in justice. This hope reappears time and again in the Psalms (cf. Ps 2, 18, 20, 21, 72). In the messianic oracles, the figure of a king endowed with the Lord’s Spirit, full of wisdom and capable of rendering justice to the poor, is awaited in eschatological times (cf. Is 11:2-5; Jer 23:5-6). As true shepherd of the people of Israel (cf. Ezek 34:23-24, 37:24), he will bring peace to the nations (cf. Zech 9:9-10). In Wisdom Literature, the king is presented as the one who renders just judgments and abhors iniquity (cf. Prov 16:12), who judges the poor with equity (cf. Prov29:14) and is a friend to those with a pure heart (cf. Prov 22:11). There is a gradual unfolding of the proclamation of what the Gospels and other New Testament writings see fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, the definitive incarnation of what the Old Testament foretold about the figure of the king. (378)
Psalm 72:7 and Isaiah 11:6-9
Peace is the goal of life in society, as is made extraordinarily clear in the messianic vision of peace: when all peoples will go up to the Lord’s house, and he will teach them his ways and they will walk along the ways of peace (cf. Is 2:2-5). A new world of peace that embraces all of nature is the promise of the messianic age (cf. Is 11:6-9), and the Messiah himself is called “Prince of peace” (Is 9:5). Wherever his peace reigns, wherever it is present even in part, no longer will anyone be able to make the people of God fearful (cf. Zeph 3:13). It is then that peace will be lasting, because when the king rules according to God’s justice, righteousness flourishes and peace abounds “till the moon be no more” (Ps 72:7). God longs to give peace to his people: “he will speak of peace to his people, to his saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts” (Ps 85:9). Listening to what God has to say to his people about peace, the Psalmist hears these words: “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss” (Ps 85:11). (490)
Heir to the hope of the righteous in Israel and first among the disciples of Jesus Christ is Mary, his Mother. By her “fiat” to the plan of God’s love (cf. Lk 1:38), in the name of all humanity, she accepts in history the One sent by the Father, the Saviour of mankind. In herMagnificat she proclaims the advent of the Mystery of Salvation, the coming of the “Messiah of the poor” (cf. Is 11:4; 61:1). The God of the Covenant, whom the Virgin of Nazareth praises in song as her spirit rejoices, is the One who casts down the mighty from their thrones and raises up the lowly, fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty, scatters the proud and shows mercy to those who fear him (cf. Lk 1:50-53).
Looking to the heart of Mary, to the depth of her faith expressed in the words of the Magnificat, Christ’s disciples are called to renew ever more fully in themselves “the awareness that the truth about God who saves, the truth about God who is the source of every gift, cannot be separated from the manifestation of his love of preference for the poor and humble, that love which, celebrated in the Magnificat, is later expressed in the words and works of Jesus”. Mary is totally dependent upon God and completely directed towards him by the impetus of her faith. She is “the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe”. (59)
Do we spend so much time attempting to exemplify holiness that we neglect living our faith? Do we distance ourselves from divergent people and perspectives that faith isolates instead of integrates us into the world? The words of the Psalm talk of enemies coming together instead of threatening and destroying one another. If we profess to live on God’s holy mountain, will we discard a persona of holiness, a spiritual eliteness and enter into a life not fearful of living in the world? Fearing the world ignores God’s goodness in creation. Pseudo holiness in trying to distance oneself from sin actually enters the separation from God deeper, as it hovers in a fear-based spirituality removed from the loving embrace of God. An obsession with pursuing holiness roots itself in a sense of unworthiness before God. A life neglecting the boundless mercy of God who welcomes us just like we are and says go forth as mercy in the world. For the Lord comes not judging by physical appearance but providing the poor justice. As followers of the Lord, who by today’s standards would be labeled homeless, vagabond, an intenerate preacher in appearance, do we even acknowledge justice dwells as a key component of our faith? Does prayer and personal devotion obscure, shield one from viewing the poor and the systemic causes of poverty in the world? If good fruits in our lives pronounce a sign of our repentance, where would we even have the time for manifesting good fruits if our faith is an obsession over our perfect purity, which in reality is an unattainable mirage? Mary, the Mother of our Lord, got it, the importance of God’s transformative mercy from age to age and preferential option of justice for lifting up the lowly as the bedrock of faith. In response to God’s mercy, feeling blessed will we proclaim His justice or will we wallow in a continual state of repentance, decrying unworthiness, grasping to devotional holiness as a solace? Pseudo holiness lives in a vacuum void from participating in God’s flourishing justice and proclaiming His happiness with the joy of the Lord. Pseudo holiness perpetuates the sinful omission of focusing on prioritizing self-sanctification while negating to support the whole human family. Pseudo holiness says “I” am important instead of the solidarity to the “we” of God’s creation. The richness of our faith calls us to such a deeper meaning than pseudo holiness, a call to a transformative relationship with God, all humanity and the interconnectedness of creation. We must not let pseudo holiness rob us and our Church of the mission Jesus prioritized and intrinsically tied to the basis of salvation, Matthew 25.
Individual Reflection: Psalm 72: 1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
December 21st, the shortest day of the year, is a day to remember the homeless people that have died on our streets during the past year. Attend or help coordinate one of these memorials and mobilize people attending to work for justice with the homeless in your town.
Family Reflection: Matthew 3:1-12
Instead of purchasing family gifts for Christmas, use the money and spend some time working on a transformative justice project in your city.
Prayer: Say a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s mercy and love and ask for the grace to use those gifts as transformative justice in the world.
Blogs to Visit:
As we reflect upon Mary’s presence in the mysteries of the Rosary, we are blessed to know her. For her journey, a timeless trek, calls us to surrender, continuing conversion, humbleness and justice now.
Weekly lectionary reflections, for faith sharing groups, parish bulletins, newsletters or personal prayer, from the synergy of the Word we hear and the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching.
Catholic Social Teaching offers seven principles for upholding life in our thoughts, decisions and actions.
How we do Catholic Social Teaching.
Creation sustainability ministry resources in the spirit of the St Francis Pledge.
Social Ministry Resources Engaging Parishes: Monthly and liturgical seasons resources for use with parish websites, bulletins and newsletters
List one or two upcoming events, legislative action alerts or social justice websites
By Barb Born November 21, 2016 The reflection maybe used in parish bulletins, newsletters or for faith sharing groups without copyright concern.