December 17, 2017: Third Sunday of Advent
Catholic Social Teaching: Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet: “Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest”.For example, the depletion of fishing reserves especially hurts small fishing communities without the means to replace those resources; water pollution particularly affects the poor who cannot buy bottled water; and rises in the sea level mainly affect impoverished coastal populations who have nowhere else to go. The impact of present imbalances is also seen in the premature death of many of the poor, in conflicts sparked by the shortage of resources, and in any number of other problems which are insufficiently represented on global agendas. (48)
It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. These days, they are mentioned in international political and economic discussions, but one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an afterthought, a question which gets added almost out of duty or in a tangential way, if not treated merely as collateral damage. Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population. This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality. At times this attitude exists side by side with a “green” rhetoric. Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. (49) Laudato Si Pope Francis
First Reading: Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11
Psalm: Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
Second Reading: 1st Thessalonians 5:16-24
Gospel: John 1:6-8, 19-28
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.” St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost.86 According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace. (715) From the Daily Roman Missal, Introduction to the, Third Sunday of Advent, Cycle B
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:
Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 1:50-53
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 her Magnificat 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)
The benevolence and mercy that inspire God’s actions and provide the key for understanding them become so very much closer to man that they take on the traits of the man Jesus, the Word made flesh. In the Gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus describes his messianic ministry with the words of Isaiah which recall the prophetic significance of the jubilee: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk 4:18-19; cf. Is 61:1-2). Jesus therefore places himself on the frontline of fulfilment, not only because he fulfils what was promised and what was awaited by Israel, but also in the deeper sense that in him the decisive event of the history of God with mankind is fulfilled. He proclaims: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). Jesus, in other words, is the tangible and definitive manifestation of how God acts towards men and women. (28)
John 1:4, 9
Christian realism sees the abysses of sin, but in the light of the hope, greater than any evil, given by Jesus Christ’s act of redemption, in which sin and death are destroyed (cf. Rom 5:18-21; 1 Cor 15:56-57): “In him God reconciled man to himself”. It is Christ, the image of God (cf. 2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15), who enlightens fully and brings to completion the image and likeness of God in man. The Word that became man in Jesus Christ has always been mankind’s life and light, the light that enlightens every person (cf. Jn 1:4,9). God desires in the one mediator Jesus Christ, his Son, the salvation of all men and women (cf. 1 Tim 2:4-5). Jesus is at the same time the Son of God and the new Adam, that is, the new man (cf. 1 Cor 15:47-49; Rom 5:14): “Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling”. In him we are, by God, “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren” (Rom 8:29). (121)
1st Thessalonians 5:21
Christian faith, while inviting that whatever is good and worthy of man should be sought out wherever it may be found (cf. 1 Thes 5:21), “is above and is sometimes opposed to the ideologies, in that it recognizes God, who is transcendent and the Creator, and who, through all the levels of creation, calls on man as endowed with responsibility and freedom”.
The Church’s social doctrine strives to indicate the different dimensions of the mystery of man, who must be approached “in the full truth of his existence, of his personal being and also of his community and social being”, with special attention so that the value of the human person may be readily perceived.(126)
Preparing our hearts for Divine Incarnation during Advent, do we focus on who without digesting the why? Preparing our hearts for our Savior, but what ramifications beyond a purely spiritual euphoria? Jesus came with an invitation understood by Mary and John the Baptist, for they understood God’s message that Jesus would manifest. They were an accessory to God’s glory, articulating their experience to soften hearts. But can we get past the name of Jesus, who came, to an appreciation for the why? Or are we comfortable in the who, a definition worthy of praise without the gritty work of mission. Why, a short three letter word packs the explosiveness of questions. Questions sometimes too hot to handle, too difficult to answer, too time consuming for our intellect. Why, “What Has Yearnings”…yearnings of our souls, society, sense of sacred justice unravel when we seek why in the Incarnation to complement the who.
Starting the third week of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of Joy in our waiting, why is definitively defined. Let us be joyful for Divine explanation of why accompanies the who! Living the sacramental call to go forth, we become the hands and feet of Christ to bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, release prisoners and announce a year of jubilee for the fiscally enslaved. In the Magnificat, Mary proclaims that with soulful greatness towards the Lord, realizing the blessings from being a joyful servant bestowed with mercy and the emptiness of riches. May we too rejoice, with a prayerful gaze, not quench the Spirit of the Lord, to faithfully act in service towards addressing anything that deflates the common good. For we know the God of peace invites us INTO the world, as His Son came into the world, to be witnesses to the Light. To isolate, retreat or separate ourselves from living this mission of joy is to deny the why of who we await during Advent.
Individual Reflection: Psalm: Luke 1:46-48, 439-50, 53-54
Read all of Mary’s Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55. How can those words be your words in your faith and actions?
Family Reflection: John 1:6-8, 19-28
Attend a Las Posadas or Simbang Gabi one evening leading up to Christmas
Ponder the word JOY in the essence of Jesus Others and Yourself
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 December 8, 2017, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception The reflection maybe used in parish bulletins, newsletters or for faith sharing groups without copyright concern.