Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: The coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ encourages us to work to restructure society around the Law of God, especially as that pertains to our stewardship of earth.

Thursday of 3rd week in Advent 2015 December 17

Joy of the Gospel

Today is one of those pivots that our liturgical year turns around. In the first part of Advent, we look forward to the return of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the general judgement and resurrection that He promised. In other words, we look toward our end, both the end of this sinful world and the end or objective to which we struggle, guided by and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

In this second phase of Advent, we look backward to the beginning, to the conception and birth of Jesus in the first century of the Christian era. The reading from Genesis points to the fourth son of Jacob, Judah, and the promise that his descendant would be the eternal ruler of God’s people. That promise was brought to reality in King David and his mostly disappointing offspring, but fulfilled forever in his perfect descendant and Our King, Christ. So deacons look forward every year to this Gospel. Sometimes I think the main reason God led me to pursue a theology degree is so I could pronounce all those names of Christ’s ancestors.

But the meaning of this day is our commemoration of the revolutionary moment in human history when God, in His infinite mercy, became a human being. Not a human person, but a divine person with every human characteristic except sin, except rebellion. And we look now to our responsibilities as His Church, His people, especially as we try to restructure human society according to God’s plan, God’s loving will for all human beings. “O Emmanuel, come.”

The Pope has much to say about this: ‘We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programs, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.

‘I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world! Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good. We need to be convinced that charity “is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones)” [Here he is quoting Emeritus Pope Benedict] I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor! It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare. Why not turn to God and ask him to inspire their plans? I am firmly convinced that openness to the transcendent can bring about a new political and economic mindset which would help to break down the wall of separation between the economy and the common good of society.

‘Economy, as the very word indicates, should be the art of achieving a fitting management of our common home, which is the world as a whole. Each meaningful economic decision made in one part of the world has repercussions everywhere else; consequently, no government can act without regard for shared responsibility. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find local solutions for enormous global problems which overwhelm local politics with difficulties to resolve. If we really want to achieve a healthy world economy, what is needed at this juncture of history is a more efficient way of interacting which, with due regard for the sovereignty of each nation, ensures the economic well-being of all countries, not just of a few.’

Like all wise popes, the Holy Father doesn’t propose specific changes to the politicians, but rather general principles of solution that–I don’t want to sound cynical–they are least likely to adopt or even consider. Like “turn to God.” Can you imagine, for instance, the president of the latest “climate summit” beginning with a summons to prayer? Perhaps the most logical prayer of all–to the Holy Spirit for inspiration that the leaders “relish what is right”? We should pray that it be so, but on our part we should do what we can on a local level to ourselves relish what is right and encourage our leaders to do the same.

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